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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: Action-Packed Sequel to Popular Series
Jennifer Lawrence once again captures the hearts of the moviegoers, reprising her role as the fearless bow-and-arrow loving Katniss Everdeen in a generally satisfying follow-up that will for sure leave the fans hungry for even more.
Ever since their big win at the 74th annual Hungry Games, Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson) – the only couple who have emerged as dual victors of the tournament – are now living lives of luxury amidst the poverty stricken conditions of District 12. Closely followed by the public eye, the two are still settling into their newly-found wealth and are finding it hard to return to the normality of their pre-fame lives.
However, before they have a chance to even try to settle in, they're summoned on a victory tour; an expedition which sees the couple parading across all twelve districts, with the hope of distracting the masses from the day to day struggles that Panem faces.
Unfortunately, the PR stunt cooked up by the ruthless and the oppressive President Snow (Sutherland) backfires, as the couple slowly become a symbol of hope and resistance; an inconvenient development which threatens the hierarchies of the system. In order to avoid a possible revolt, the President, along with the new games director, Plutarch Heavensbee (Seymour Hoffman), decide that the 75th Hunger Games should be made up entirely of all former champions, throwing the couple back into the arena once more.
Despite her rapid rise to stardom, Jennifer Lawrence settles back into her role beautifully. The character of Katniss is given more emotional depth this time round and as her on-screen beau and fellow warrior, Hutcherson is still that sweet boy-next-door, while Sutherland steps up to the mark as the callous dictator.
Other returning faces, which include Harrelson as inebriated mentor, Haymitch, Banks as quirky chaperon, Effie, Tucci as the cheesy TV-host and Kravitz as the eccentric gown designer, all deliver an equally emotional impact in their supporting roles.
Directed by Francis Lawrence, the story is more focused this time around and the balance of the gritty realism embodied in the shattered districts – and the emotional drama within – set against the flashy video-game style arena is incorporated wonderfully.
Unfortunately, the film does have its flaws. The overly long running time stretches the plot quite thinly and although the story does have its wow moments, it does end up feeling a little rushed towards the end; a development that will almost certainly leave fans of the book series a little frustrated.
Failings aside, Hunger Games: Catching Fire manages to deliver an exciting and thrilling viewing experience and has set up high expectations for the next instalment.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
As an exploration of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the military, Dito Montiel’s Man Down is a muddled story that’s pretty challenging to sit through. Though on paper there’s plenty of potential depth in this particular effect of war – and a solid cast at its disposable – the film descends into military-movie clichés, while not really keeping up with its complex set-up.
The movie to take place over four separate time periods and opens with U.S Marine Gabriel Drummer (LeBeouf) and his military buddy, Devin Roberts (Courtney), making their way through a vast and seemingly wasted American landscape which appears to have been destroyed by a chemical attack. On the look-out for survivors, the pair is hoping to find Drummer’s son, Jonathan (Shotwell), whom he believes has been kidnapped.
Before the audience gets a chance to find out what is really going in, the story flashes back to another time period where a seemingly distraught Drummer is being interviewed by Counselor Peyton (Oldman) about an ‘incident’ that occurred on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Moving on to yet to another period, we also get to see the story of Drummer and Roberts during their Marine Corps training at Camp Lejeune before, eventually, cutting to the story of Drummer’s life at home with wife, Natalie (Mara) and their son.
Taking on several narrative threads without really knowing where to take them, let alone how to put them back together, is one of Man Down’s major issues. Used to give some kind of visual interpretation of PTSD, the movie’s choppy editing is ineffective and comes across as a messy, superficial tool.
Clocking in at precisely ninety minutes, Man Down is a relatively short film but, thanks to the overworked script and slow pace, it takes forever for any of the stories to build into something bigger.
Working its way through a series of military clichés, the story works best when it is focused on digging into Drummer’s fractured mind, with the conversation between him and his counsellor – played by the seemingly wasted talent of one Gary Oldman – serving to be one of the movie’s best elements. LeBeouf is convincing as a troubled soldier desperately trying not to sink deeper into madness and his commitment to the role is commendable, making it all that more frustrating to see that the script itself is so lacking.