*NEW* MOTHER REVIEW *NEW*

Oh MOTHER! That was bad.

A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.

I guess I wasn’t as big an Aronofsky fan as I thought. The very epitome of a Marmite movie.

For some, an existential dissection of life through religious allegory. For me, a meandering mess split into two agonizing halves that failed to deliver.

To be honest, it didn’t help that the marketing and posters suggested something more horrific. Now don’t get me wrong, Mother! is a modern horror . . . Of sorts.

BUT I was expecting a demented take on Rosemary’s Baby (Like it wasn’t demented already). And there was an echo of that in the closing act BUT this just didn’t go in the direction I hoped at all.

Seriously, pay attention to the first five minutes. The path is established pretty early on.

And if I didn’t have this ridiculous rule of seeing a movie out to the end; I would have joined the several people that walked out 30 minutes in.

This isn’t the worst film I’ve seen (BUT could be for this year).

Credit where it is due. The cast all played their parts well.

The first half of the film was slow burning BUT intriguing as Him’s (Bardem) writer’s block took its toll on the couple’s relationship. Jennifer Lawrence carried this film as much as she could as Mother. Doing her best to be a supportive wife.

Giving Him space and revamping an old country house in a wonderfully tranquil (yet strangely eery) pastoral setting.

I felt for Mother’s frustration and confusion; especially when the mysterious Man (Ed Harris) made his introduction.

A diversion for Him. A disturbance for Mother. The question’s mounting as Him welcomed Man into their home with no hesitation. Drinking and chatting rubbish. The paranoia setting in. Why is he really here? Why now?

Things took an even stranger turn when Man’s wife Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) turned up.

Inventive names, aren’t they? Lazy or clever? I’ll leave that to you (LAZY!). I had to suspend my disbelief and remember this was a movie. There is no way that I would let my partner invite a strange couple we’ve only just met into my home. No-se-re.

I loved Psycho-Pfeiffer. It was great to see her back. Showing Lawrence how it’s done. She played the crazy doctor wife brilliantly. Mind games well and truly in flow. Like a cat playing with a mouse (And yes, I totally meant the Catwoman reference).

The pace was agonizing BUT I was still wanting to see where this was going. BUT the second half of the film completely ruined all that build up. So much so that by the end, it made that story line (almost) completely irrelevant.

Aronofsky really did pull the wool over my eyes. He completely turned the film on its head. I expected this domestic psycho-thriller to unfold into something else. BUT not this!

With more and more people turning up to see Him, I thought something creepier was going to happen.

Especially with the haunting sequences in which the house appeared to be “speaking” to Mother. A bleeding heart in a toilet was an unexpected image I won’t forget any time soon.

I mean it was unsettling BUT it was such a bloody visceral mess and not in the good kind.

I could see what the director was trying to do. Delivering social commentary and satire. BUT there was only so much religious imagery and mayhem that I could take!

The finale unravelled his true intent and I was surprised. I just didn’t like the end result. It wasn’t worth the two hour slogfest.

I didn’t enjoy it (Not that it was ever going to be a movie for “enjoyment”).

Okay granted, it has a been over a month since I saw Mother! and the experience is still fresh in my memory.

BUT I think that was only because of the sheer disappointment. It was torturous. I felt like I was going through this chaotic hell ride with Mother. A ride that I wish I hadn’t taken. Even with the surprising cameos popping up in the mental and sporadic closing minutes.

As much as I have had time to discuss plot points and themes, I still didn’t think Mother! was that special.

Bravo, Mr Aronofsky for pulling the wool over my eyes. You won’t be doing it again.

2/5

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*NEW* PASSENGERS REVIEW *NEW*

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One ride I didn’t expect to enjoy.

Two passengers are awakened 90 years early after a spaceship malfunction en route to a distant colony.

From all the negative press, I was bracing myself for something horrific. A loved up but incredibly naff Gravity rip-off.

Oh no! The opening act was completely different to what I had expected.

For the first 30 to 40 minutes, we had just Chris Pratt. Lost in space. 

After his stellar performance in Guardians of the Galaxy, I was worried that Pratt was becoming a one trick pony. Delivering his usual comedy shtick. BUT he delivered a much more serious turn.

A little slow burning BUT riveting as Jim wandered the vast and empty vessel. His confusion rapidly turning into hysteria as he realised he was the only one awake.

His only companion, a slick and highly entertaining robot bartender. And who better to play the role than Michael bloody Sheen?!

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Even if his attire reminded me of Lloyd from The Shining.

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Don’t worry, it’s not that type of movie. No murderous androids here. 

Sheen was sublime. His rapport with Pratt was brilliant. Desperately searching his bartending database to strike up conversation and offer advice.

As much as you felt for Jim’s frustration and isolation as he came to his wit’s end after a year (A year?!) of playing around with robots, virtual dancing, getting smashed and wondering around the endless hallways naked (Yeah, the ladies will love that), the pace was testing by the hour marker.

And that was the only real issue for me. Don’t worry, lads. We have J-Law in a space bikini (Whaaat?!)

Doomed to travel in space alone. Unable to break into the captain’s quarters after months of trying. Contemplating the end. Jim was truly a man on the verge.

That was until Katniss Aberdeen made her introduction.

Pratt and Lawrence were brilliant. They had fantastic chemistry and were a great duo. Crucial when the film revolves primarily on just two people.

The special effects were pretty impressive as the pair orbited the ship in anti-gravitational body suits, admiring the interstellar landscape. The inevitable sparks flying as the couple inevitably fell for each other.

However, all was not as it seemed. The reasons behind Aurora’s (The lovely Jennifer Lawrence) pod failure made things a little more intriguing and certainly changed the dynamic of the film.

Without spoiling too much, it pondered a surprisingly moral argument. Especially when Aurora discovered the truth. BUT it was never going to be that type of movie either.

Thankfully, the ship’s increasing power surges soon created more noticeable issues than just some robots going haywire and broke the schmaltzy hokum as the pair had only a matter of time to save the ship and its comatose inhabitants from impending doom in the form of a dying star. Yikes.

Pratt and Lawrence’s chemistry smoothed over some of the rougher edges of the film. Most notably, the giant plot holes; if an asteroid belt did that much damage to the ship, why was only one pod disturbed?

Some of you might even laugh at the convenient arrival of Laurence Fishburne’s character (The Matrix) as the sh*t finally hit the fan; “We can’t get through these doors without clearance!” Guess who has and knows exactly what to do? Come on .  . . 

I actually didn’t mind Passengers. The explosions and set pieces did overindulge with the CGI too much by the end with everything getting a little too cartoony for my liking.

The frantic (Though highly watchable) finale tragically ended on such a flat and corny note that it spoiled things a bit. BUT it was better than I expected.

A slow burning romantic sci-fi drama. Just take it with a pinch of salt.

If you’re expecting a hard-hitting thought-provoking sci-fi flick, go watch Arrival. If you want a big, dumb Hollywood sci-fi love story, then give it a go. It ain’t that bad.

3/5 (Just)

*NEW* X-MEN: APOCALYPSE REVIEW *NEW*

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Was another one really necessary? Probably not BUT with Singer at the helm, I knew I was in for a treat.

After the re-emergence of the world’s first mutant, world-destroyer Apocalypse, the X-Men must unite to defeat his extinction level plan.

I loved the X-Men movies (Yes, even The Last Stand. No, really! I’ve seen worse. Trust me). BUT I couldn’t get into X-Men: First Class and felt the Wolverine spin-offs were a massive let down (Although I still have high hopes for Logan!). A shame considering the cast, the characters and Hugh flippin’ Jackman!

Disappointing affairs that there were either too long, too dull or riddled with far too many plot holes and I didn’t even read the comic books.

Thankfully Days of Future Past was a return to form and mixed the old cast with the new perfectly. Singer’s direction being the missing ingredient. I had to laugh at his sly dig about the third movie always being the worst in a “Star Wars” debate. Righting so many wrongs in one action packed package.

So here we are . . . *WARNING POSSIBLE SPOILERS!* After the bombshell that was delivered at the finale of Days of Future Past, I really wanted to see the next installment. BUT one that followed on. NOT going back into the past again! I was a little disappointed BUT it was still a highly watchable and enjoyable effort.

The idea of mutants existing through history and NOT just from experimentation was a different angle.

The opening felt like something out of The Mummy (The Stephen Sommers saga) with all the crazy golden swag everywhere and demented ritual stuff. BUT it got things going and set up the chrome-esque Humpty Dumpty looking and (poorly named) Apocalypse quite well.

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Looks a bit like Ivan Ooze.

Despite all that make up and silly voice tampering, Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina) was still a convincing super-villain (Even if he spent the majority of the film monologuing). A god hell bent on bringing the Second Coming with the help of his chosen Horsemen.

Writer Simon Kinberg and Singer explored the origins of the old favourites quite well. Tye Sheridan (Scouts’ Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) was very good as a young Scott Summers/Cyclops. Sophie “Game of Thrones” Turner was excellent as Jean Grey. Her accent was impeccable.

There wasn’t enough of Kodi Smit-McPhee’s (Let Me In) Nightcrawler. He captured Alan Cummings’ mannerisms perfectly and stole every scene. Alexandra Shipp’s Storm was tragically lost in the mix far too much. A bit like her older counterpart in Future Past. Shame.

It was intriguing to see Fassbender’s Magneto portrayed as the tormented anti-hero. Doomed to never have a normal life after trying to start a family in Poland. The only problem was that despite giving an extra depth to the maniacal metal man, it left him skulking around for the rest of the film. Gutted.

I loved the transformation of Mystique’s character. To change from a morphing femme fatale to a conflicted symbol for the mutants’ fight for survival. BUT then again what did you expect when you have Jennifer Lawrence taking on the role?!

The only problem was that it felt like a retread from FP with Raven refusing to take the call. Even though you knew the inevitable outcome.

BUT where Singer and Kinberg explored old faces, they tried to bring in new ones which didn’t quite work. Ben Hardy’s Angel and the beautiful Olivia Munn’s Psylocke were a waste of time. Even Sabre Tooth and Toad made more memorable minions.

However, there was one face I was happy to see return and that was Evan Peters’ (American Horror Story) Quicksilver. He stole the show in Future Past and did it yet again. Featuring in one of the best animated sequences I’ve seen in a long time.

You thought the prison breakout was impressive in FP, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The detail. The effects! Fantastic. It may have taken months to shoot BUT it was worth every frame. And all perfectly timed to the rhythmic beat of Eurthymics’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).

It was entertaining as hell as Quicksilver kung fu kicked doors and moon walked across fiery hallways while his clueless comrades stood frozen in time; oblivious of their impending doom.

I was a little annoyed with the influx of new faces that didn’t get enough back story to make a proper introduction. Scott’s brother Alex or Havok (Lucas Till) was hyped up as such a crucial character BUT it was his first appearance in the franchise. An unnecessary addition by the time the credits rolled.

The pace did test in the final third and the finale, despite the amazing visuals, felt like a retread of FP and First Class with Magneto sulking and wanting to end the world (Again). Yawn.

It might help to have watched the other entries to appreciate all the little nods. Especially First Class because I had completely forgotten about Rose Byrne’s character and her silly little love subplot with Professor X. Thankfully Singer and co. did a quick recap to jog the memories of those who aren’t up to speed on their X-Men history.

BUT there was still enough fun and action to keep me entertained. The only problem by trying to fill in the gaps and explore new territory, Singer unwittingly put more cracks in the time frame from the original efforts. There was a revelation surrounding one character that came out so half arsed that I wondered why they even bothered in the first place?!

Despite my gripes, Apocalypse still fitted perfectly as a precursor to the first X-Men movie (That’s the 2000 release for those who want to be pedantic with the crazy time frame) and wasn’t quite the wash out that people had me believe.

The cast were great, the effects and set pieces were breathtaking and I still had fun after 16 years and 7 films (Does The Wolverine count? Okay, 8. What about Deadpool? Steady on).

3.5/5

*NEW* JOY REVIEW *NEW*

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I didn’t find much joy in this. A stellar turn from Lawrence did just enough to keep this mediocre mop yarn watchable.

Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) is the story of the title character, who rose to become founder and matriarch of a powerful family business dynasty.

A silly opening with a dated soap opera parody didn’t really set the tone or get things going for me. BUT it did give an indication of what to expect. An OTT, patchy and drawn out affair. Jennifer Lawrence was superb and this piece definitely proved one thing. She is one talented actress. She had the charm and presence to carry this biopic along.

The endless soap opera sequences were unnecessary. I could get the connection that Joy’s life was like a soap opera. The dream sequence in which Joy became part of the soap would have sufficed. The repetitive use of it just hampered things.

Desperate NOT to be like her reclusive mother (Virginia Madsen – Sideways). Shut away from the world and reduced to watching soaps in her room. Madsen did her best with the role BUT she wasn’t given enough screen time or depth to make a proper impression. And that silly little subplot with Jimmy Jean-Louis’ (Heroes) Haitian plumber didn’t help.

Bradley Cooper didn’t do too bad in his ridiculously small supporting role. He was able to make such a weak character watchable with his sheer enthusiasm. He even managed to make the history of QVC sound interesting. To be honest, I didn’t know anything about the origins of the renowned TV shopping channel. There were some good little tidbits.

The real problem for me was that all this drama was over a mop? It sounds bad when you say that Joy is a biopic about the woman who invented the miracle mop. Plus you can’t help BUT question how much of this was exaggerated and given the David O’ Russell treatment. As much as we felt for Joy’s struggle to be accepted for something more than just a housewife, there wasn’t much on offer.

It wasn’t all bad. There were some engaging moments and if Joy really went through that turmoil then I still wouldn’t believe it. The back stabbing from lawyers, suppliers, QVC and even her own family. There wasn’t enough of Elisabeth Rohm (American Hustle). She was very good as Joy’s conniving half sister. I wanted more of that. The green eyed monster desperate to bring Joy’s empire down from day one.

Robert De Niro was on scene stealing form as Joy’s obnoxious father. Arrogant, petulant, a monster. It was a shame that he was pushed into the background by the end after dominating the screen from the get go. Diane Ladd’s Mimi (Chinatown) was a little weak. She was nothing more than a narrator. BUT there were still some nice moments between her and Joy. The only rock in Joy’s hectic life.

Isabella Rossellini’s Trudy (Blue Velvet) got on my nerves. Not so much her performance BUT her character. The silly questions she grilled Joy with before investing was stupid. “Do you pick up the gun, Joy?” She picks up the gun, apparently. I’m sure the dialogue sounded better on paper.

There were so many different characters thrown into the mix and none of them were really developed or explored enough. Joy’s relationship with Tony (Edgar Ramirez – Point Break) had potential. Faring better as friends than they ever did married. Still standing by her side despite everything.

For every high and low, you were still rooting for Joy to succeed (Despite knowing the end result). Especially in the closing act when things came to a head. BUT it helped to have an engaging character and a great actress at the helm. However, I was still left a little disappointed. After all that build up, it just ended. I mean obviously there was only ever to be one outcome BUT it just rushed to tie in everything after throwing several random subplots that went nowhere. Shame.

Not O’Russell’s worst. I still enjoyed this a fraction more than American Hustle. Lawrence was on fine form. The supporting cast did their best. BUT the overlong pace and structure made this an uneven and dis-joy-nted piece.

3/5 (Just)

*NEW* THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART TWO REVIEW *NEW*

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The relentless bestselling blockbuster franchise comes to a close. Did it fly high or flop like a turkey?

As the war of Panem escalates to the destruction of other districts by the Capitol, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), the reluctant leader of the rebellion, must bring together an army against President Snow (Donald Sutherland), while all she holds dear hangs in the balance.

And now it comes to an end. A billion dollar franchise that spawned more bestselling adaptations than I could take and launched the career of one of Hollywood’s top leading actresses. Was it all worth it? After four films with one being split into two parts, did it conclude to my liking?

To an extent, it did. A mixed bag would be the best phrase to sum up my thoughts. A little disappointing after all that promise and build up. Now, I will admit straight off the bat. Like I normally do. I have never read the books BUT speaking with fans, they have generally been impressed with the adaptations.

I have enjoyed the movies. The first installment reminded me of a Twilight take on Battle Royale which worked a lot better than I expected with a stellar turn from that girl from Winter’s Bone. The pace was always a killer for me. BUT there was always something that made me want to see the next one. A twist, a revelation. And now here I am. Desperately seeking the finale to a franchise I never expected to enjoy.

Now, hardly a shocker BUT Part Two follows straight on from Part One with Katniss recovering from a vicious attack from Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). The opening was dreadfully slow but did just enough to keep me subdued as Everdeen watches from the sidelines. The war on the Districts pushing for more aggressive action.

Things did take a slightly more interesting turn as Katniss began to question the agenda of the movement and Coin’s motives (Julianne Moore). Forcing her to make a drastic decision. To go it alone and seek out Snow.

Once the decision was made and the hour marker hit, the film took things up a notch. It was fast paced, tense and gripping. Everything I expected from a finale. The sewer chase was exhilarating stuff as the gang battled demented white zombie creatures. BUT of course, Katniss was not alone.

Who on Earth in their right mind would bring along a brainwashed Peeta? Hutcherson did a great job as the traumatized fighter. His failure to grasp reality and continuous questioning was interesting to start with. BUT the endless “Real/Not Real” quid pro quo with Katniss soon dragged and annoyed the hell out of me.

But then there wouldn’t be any drama, would there? With a more infuriating love triangle than Lost, things come to an ugly head as Katniss is torn between the loyal Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and the volatile Peeta. It was good to see Hemsworth have a chance to step up after being in the background for the majority of the films.

My main issue with Mockingjay Part Two was that it seemed to suffer from the same problems that the final Harry Potters did. It skimmed past too many characters’ back stories and then quickly threw said characters back into the mix for one last hurrah. Jena Malone and Sam Claflin finally reappeared and made more of an impression this time around. To be honest, I had almost forgot about them after Catching Fire.

Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci were virtually absent in this one. Tucci was merely a passing cameo and Banks only reappeared to say farewell. Not even Haymitch’s advice was that memorable or entertaining. Merely regurgitating what we already knew. He literally just disappeared into the background. Shame.

The media or PR team led by Natalie Dormer added absolutely nothing to it at all. If anything, it made me question the relevance of them altogether by the end.

However, it wasn’t all bad. Jennifer Lawrence was superb yet again. The film took a much darker turn than I expected and there were a few shockers in the closing half hour. BUT what didn’t help matters was that we didn’t see half of them. It was merely implied or reported back to us by some extra. Infuriating after all the build up that things were happening off screen.

It killed off a good portion of the tension. There were still some touching moments BUT it came off a little flat and disjointed. I wish there was more of a showdown between Snow and Katniss. I really loved their fractious relationship and their final confrontation was certainly not to be missed BUT somehow despite some revelations, it just didn’t quite satisfy me as much as I thought.

It was also quite sad to see someone else taking a final bow. It may have been some time since his passing but it was a fine performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch. I’m not sure how much of his performance was altered to complete the movie BUT it didn’t spoil the character one bit.

I really do think it will come down to how much of a Hunger Games fan you are. As the credits rolled, a majority of the audience applauded. Guess what part of the audience, I was in. It was certainly watchable and there were some tense and brilliantly acted moments. It is tough to please everyone when wrapping up a series BUT for all the build up and insufferable Part 1 and Part 2, I was a little disappointed and left wanting.

Close BUT no cigar.

3/5

*NEW* INSURGENT REVIEW *NEW*

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Dull-vergent returns. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice . . . Well, shame on me again, I guess.

Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart with the help from others on her side.

Well, it killed the time. But would I watch it again? Would I recommend it? Ah, no.

I haven’t read the Divergent books (and I’m certainly not going to after this) BUT I actually liked the first feature film adaptation. It was racy, engaging if a little predictable. BUT as I said back then, if there was going to be a sequel, they would need to take it up a notch.

It was watchable enough but if anything, Insurgent took the wind out of Divergent’s sails. It was slow, overlong and cliched as hell. It only really got going in the last twenty minutes. Not good enough.

It doesn’t help that the silver screen has been flooded with endless teen bestseller adaptations since The Hunger Games. These films really need to hit the ground running or at least offer something different to make a memorable impression. The Maze Runner had messed up zombies and a MAZE! Hunger Games had . . . Jennifer Lawrence (What?!)

Insurgent offered the same old re-tread like its predecessor but with weaker results. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all bad.

Shailene Woodley and Theo James still have cracking chemistry and kept the spark going. I just could have done with a little less schmaltz. Woodley seems to be shaking off the squeaky clean image and with that severe haircut, she certainly proved she can play the strong lead well. Okay, her haircut wasn’t that bad. I just wondered why the hell she did it.

The running sequences didn’t really grab me as much as Divergent. A chase involving a train certainly kept me quiet for a few minutes and there were some decent set pieces. BUT the story line and characters really hampered this yarn a treat.

Ansel Elgort’s Caleb grated against me. His constant indecisiveness was infuriating. Standing around aimlessly while watching his little sister being throttled and hung out of a train. Laughable. And when he finally strikes, he hit a semi-conscious Factionless with a lead pipe. Tut tut tut.

Naomi Watts was wasted in her role. There was potential in exploring Four’s background but it didn’t really surmount to much. If not for a revelation in the film (Don’t worry – no spoilers here), I would have deemed Watts’ character unnecessary. Obviously she will have a more prominent role in the next installment, but here’s the thing Insurgent didn’t really make want to see the next one.

Miles Teller played the wise cracking Peter well. BUT that BACKSTABBER label was stamped so hard on his head that it wasn’t a surprise when he inevitably picked his moment of betrayal. As much as I didn’t mind seeing more of Teller, it was at the expense of Zoe Kravitz and Maggie Q who were virtually absent.

Jai Courtney provided a perfect rival to Four and brought some much needed tension. Kate Winslet played a hard ass as well as she could but there was only so much pouting you can do while looking angry and holding an iPad.

I was baffled with where this film was going. I thought during the closing minutes of Divergent that Bea was already running to the gates or outskirts of the compound (or whatever it was) and escaping. Yet in Insurgent, the gang are hiding and then going back. For what?

Some mumbo jumbo about a cryptic box that can only be opened by a (Surprise, surprise!) Divergent. A box that did absolutely nothing and supposedly contained a message from ‘The Others’. A message that was not worth the two hour wait.

The Matrix style piping with Trish’s Inception style dream sequences went on far too long and didn’t really do anything. I was disappointed after all the promise that Divergent suggested. It seemed to take a darker turn half way through which did pique my interest but then chickened out.

This really felt like a case of filler before the final Part 1 and Part 2 sequels. The cast do their best with the material and the special effects and set pieces did enough to pick up the lumbering pace BUT I would really have to think twice about venturing to the cinema to see the next part.

2.5/5

HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1 REVIEW

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Are you . . .? Are you . . .? Are you going to be seeing Hunger Games? It’s actually not that bad. For something that is essentially build up.

So here we are. The first part of the final film. A reluctant film gimmick that is starting to overstay its welcome. First Harry Potter, Twilight, the extended Hobbit trilogy and now The Hunger Games. It was only a matter of time.

I never read the books. BUT these films certainly got me wanting to. So I can’t make comparisons or comments on the adaptation BUT friends have told me it’s done a pretty good job . . . SO FAR. My main bugbear with the HG franchise is the slumbering pace. The cast cannot be faltered and if you were looking for a strong female lead, you could look no further than J-Law. The role was made for her. The satire and drama was very good but the two hour or so running time left me fidgeting.

The first half an hour of HG: MJ P1 was a little too slow (again) and disorienting for me. A confused Katniss is given a quick recap after destroying the games. Helpful for those not-so-die hard fans. (I know. Preposterous). I can’t believe it had been a year since Catching Fire was first released. How time flies!. The somewhat sombre opening had to introduce a new set of characters as well as explain what happened to the existing ones. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything.

A little patience was required. But once the plot was set up, Katniss caught up to speed and introduced to the full chaos and destruction surrounding the impending rebellion, the film hit its stride.

I was quite surprised at how dark this installment was. I always felt with these teen blockbusters that there was that hesitance to push it a little further. I mean, obviously it’s aiming at 12 and up. The desolate landscape of District 12 was subtly done. A harrowing sight with skulls and bodies making up the majority of the pavement. The silence as Katniss can only look in horror. Brilliantly captured.

The Capitol continue to enforce their dictatorship. Publicly shooting protesters in the main district squares and sentencing anyone seen wearing a Mockingjay symbol with treason. Yikes! While poor old Peeta (PEETA! Every time I hear J-Law warble that name, I think Lois from Family Guy) is being used as a PR tool for the Capitol. His condition, both mentally and physically, weakening by the minute.

Julianne Moore delivered a solid performance. President Coin’s stern demeanour made her a little flat and unlikeable to begin with BUT her encounters with Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) helped bring out her out of her shell a little bit. It is a shame knowing that this will be one of Hoffman’s last films. He was brilliant as Plutarch. A clever PR tactician. His presence will be sorely missed. The fact he can make a small supporting role so memorable just shows how talented the man was.

The green screen sequence allowed for some clever satire and some humour between him and J-Law. Woody Harrelson was great as Haymitch Abernathy. To be honest, there wasn’t enough of him. Arriving exactly where he’s needed. Dispensing his Yoda-esque wisdom while adjusting to being “dried out”.

It’s great to see Jeffrey Wright getting more big screen appearances after his fantastic turn as Valentin Narcisse in Boardwalk Empire. He plays the wheelchair bound Q or gadget geek Beetee well; providing Katniss with a whole new artillery. Explosive stuff. Nudge nudge wink wink.

Donald Sutherland was deliciously sinister as President Snow. BUT shamefully reduced to video speeches and evil orders. Even in the smallest scene, he is able to bust out that shark toothed grin and deliver his lines with sleaze.

Elizabeth Banks was in scene stealing form as Effie Trinket. Her expressions and one liners brought the odd chuckle. I felt that Sam Claflin’s (Love, Rosie) Finnick Odair didn’t really do much. Merely left to mope and deliver one authoritative speech which was nothing more than a distraction tactic.

The same can be said for Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones). Flailing about with a handheld camera. The camera crew was an interesting angle (What?) as they follow Katniss around to make the perfect PR piece to spur revolution among the districts. The editing and tweaking of certain video clips was an all too familiar trait with the current news affairs, let alone future ones.

Stanley Tucci was tragically reduced to nothing more than a boring BBC journalist role, asking an incarcerated Peeta what he would say to Katniss. No chance to shine or camp it up.

The action set pieces were good. The CGI and special effects were spot on. A scene involving Katniss, an arrow and a jet was awesome.

I was surprised at how good J-Law’s singing was. As if I couldn’t find any more reasons to fall for her. (What?) The girl can sing. The Hanging Tree is a broody, haunting but catchy song. Brilliantly composed by James Newton Howard. Different. A lot of people must have agreed as it managed to crack the UK Top 40 Music chart. To think, J-Law didn’t want to do it and tried to fob it off to Lorde.

The closing 20 minutes took the film up a notch. It was suspenseful, tense and promising. Something I want in a build up (Steady now) with some surprising revelations along the way.

I am a little anxious that the final part may be stretched. Something that let down the finale of Harry Potter for me. A book fan. BUT if this was just the build up, I cannot wait to see how it all ends. The closing minutes were unexpected, tense and irritating. Merely because I wanted it to carry on. Something I always expect from ongoing franchises that churn out endless sequels.

Some people may be left a little disappointed as this really is build up to the big finale.

BUT is Hunger Games worth checking out? In the words of Stan’s Dad from South Park, Hunger Games! YA, YA, YA!

3.5/5

If you’re thinking WHAT? Here is the clip in which it is revealed that Stan’s dad is Lorde!