The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015)

the-hunger-games-mockingjay-part-2-tigris-is-that-you-mockingjay-527916Roze-Rating: 3.5 / 5

The Hunger Games returns for its last and final installment in the franchise, as we are reunited with Katniss Everdeen and the rebel army as they ready for all out war against the Capitol. Becoming the Mockingjay continues to burden Katniss, as her propaganda work overshadows her ability to contribute to the fight in more tangible ways. With Peeta returned psychologically distressed and President Alma Coin controlling her every move, she must find away around her adversities and get to the larger problem at hand; taking down president Snow.

It was no secret that Mockingjay – Part 1 was considered a complete cash grab. On a business standpoint it was an inevitable move, considering the cash the previous two films made. But on a film going stand point, it seemed to stale the momentum coming off an exciting film like Catching Fire. Mockingjay – Part 1 is not necessarily a bad film. In fact it put the franchise on a pleasantly mature course, exploring themes that seem very relevant to today. With hindsight, it became easier to understand and forgive the direction they took, as long as Part 2 made up for the stalemate that was initially experienced when watching Part 1 in theater’s.

Unfortunately, Mockingjay – Part 2 may be just as big of a disappointment as its predecessor. Which is hard to confess as I really wanted to love this film. What it suffers from is creating this massive build up of expectation and anticipation for this all out war against the Capitol. The contempt for President snow is palpable, as we’ve had three films to develop this hate, and we empathize for the districts, as we’ve seen them be treated as pawns for the Capitols entertainment. Ultimately, we want to see these Capitol ass-juices go down! What we end up getting is the equivalent of wanting to watch a Shia LaBeouf film, but upon putting the Blu-ray CD in your Blu-ray player, you are greeted with a video of Shia LaBeouf watching the Shia LaBeouf film that you desired to watch! For some, that might be a welcome surprise, but in the case of Mockingjay – Part 2, it was quite frustrating.

At its core, this is a war film. Which is why it was disappointing to be deprived of any visual representation of it throughout the film. Talk about blue balls… Perhaps we’re given that prompt when we briefly see the rebels bomb the crap out of a mountain containing a bunch of the Capitol’s artillery from the perspective of Katniss. Even then, it still looked awesome! Only fueling the need to see more of this destruction even further.

Perhaps without the films conscious social commentary about war, there would be little redeemable about this film. Just like Part 1, the themes of war and propaganda is what transcends the franchise away from the stereotypes of young adult films. Throughout Mockingjay – Part 2, we are compelled with dialogue exploring the morality and ideologies of war, taken from multiple perspectives. Questions are asked and discussed, such as, how can war possibly have a good side? especially if collateral damage is considered a worthy excuse for taking innocent lives. Just before viewing the film, a friend and I were discussing the atrocities that have afflicted our world of late. How a rational reaction to a tragedy is usually to strike back, with bigger weapons and no consideration of the implications of those decisions. How can one be better than the other, when the damage is almost identical. It’s a sad thought, but the film arouses such contemplation’s.

In that respect, the film is aware enough, not to let the Pearl-Harbor-esque love triangle story become the forefront of the narrative. Especially when there are bigger political injustices at hand. Nevertheless they subtly add it in the film here and there, just to remind us that Gale still exists. I mean what does he even do! I haven’t read the books, but from the apparent “team Peeta vs team Gale” obsession, I can only imagine that the film doesn’t do his character much justice; because I never once questioned my loyalty to team Peeta… I mean, he’s a damn good guy… For the most part anyway. That being said, the difference between Mockingjay – Part 2 and Pearl Harbor is that the latter redeems itself with high octane action sequences amongst all that icky love triangle pandering. Which raises the question, Jennifer Lawrence vs Kate Beckinsale, who would you most rather go through all that love triangle BS for? Trick question. Ben Affleck. Batman beats all!

Despite the film lacking in thrills, the two action sequences the film does have, are genuinely amazing. The sewer chase will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable moments in film for me this year. mixing tension with terror as we see these impeccably CGI-ed monsters chase our heroes through a dark, wet sewer. But then that is all we get for the remainder of the film… All this film needed to take it from “ok” film territory to “epic” film territory, was one or two more action sequences. What originally made this franchise fun, was seeing our protagonists overcome adversity and challenges that were set in front of them; a reason why Catching Fire was one of my favourite films of 2013; a film that made me actively wince!

It’s easier to forgive Mockingjay – Part 1 because that film is deeply rooted in the politics of war, and the set up for this movie. Nevertheless it only intensified the hope that this film would return to the sensibilities of the first two installments and even top them in terms of thrills. If it achieved those expectations, it would have been a cracker of a finale to a franchise that has surprised many like me, who aren’t particularly interested in the young adult genre. You can thank Twilight for my pessimism.

Mockingjay – Part 2 is ultimately a good film undone by high expectations. Admittedly much of the film is hard to criticize. Jennifer Lawrence returns with another strong performance in the series, but Josh Hutcherson arguably steals the show as a mentally tortured Peeta, battling the war in his mind. It is filmed with beautiful precision as we’ve come to expect with Francis Lawrence, ever since he took over the franchise since Catching Fire. And the story offers enough twists and turns to entertain throughout its run time. Although disappointing in some aspects, it remains a satisfying conclusion to a widely successful franchise. Lets hope they wait at least 10 years before rebooting the damn thing.

Advertisements

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Dawn-of-the-Planet-of-the-Apes-WallpaperRoze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

A decade after the fight of San Francisco, Ceasar and his following of intelligent apes have adapted to life in the Redwoods. Suffering the consequences of developing the drug which created these apes are the humans who have spent the last 10 years surviving a Simian Flu epidemic.The apes are convinced that the humans have lost their battle against the disease, until a member of Malcolm’s (Jason Clarke) group runs into two apes and shoots one in excitement. Ceasar still faithful to his no killing rule lets the humans escape, unaware that they are searching for a power source to get San Francisco running again.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes joins the ranks of great sci-fi blockbusters this year among the likes of X-Men: Days of Future Past, Edge of Tomorrow and Godzilla. Films which could really prompt the rise of genuinely good sci-fi films. For a sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes completely trumps its predecessor in all departments. Keeping Ceasar central to the story was a masterful decision and because of it we get a far more compelling story than that of the humans. We’re ultimately trying to get our way to the climax which is the planet of the apes, and it wouldn’t have felt right if Franco was still there fighting for screen time. Of course he is a massive part of Ceasar’s origin story which is where Ceasar’s compassion and empathy for the humans comes from, also a reason why Rise of the Planet of the Apes works so well, but telling the majority of the story from Ceasar’s perspective was definitely the right way to go. This way we have a protagonist who is unbiased and has an impartial view towards the world, a character we know we can trust in a broken society.

During Rise of the Planet of the Apes, we see Ceasar grow up among humans, absent to life with his own kind outdoors where he belongs. He doesn’t know what humans are capable of or where he came from, but asking the questions gives him answers he finds hard to swallow. Ten years on he and his family of intelligent apes have formed a sophisticated society living as one. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is great in so many ways, it could have easily turned into a cheap action crapfest but instead it’s an intelligent film not short of the human element. I think I join a large group of people who were attracted to this film purely because of apes with guns on horses, I mean I’ve never heard of anything as awesome as that. Anyone expecting 2 hours of apes with guns may be disappointed but I’d like to think that they’d be pleasantly surprised at the same time. We spend most of the film with Ceasar amongst his family contemplating how to deal with the humans. We learn their way of life and how they all live as one and care for each other, living without the modern necessities that we live with nowadays such as electricity and internet. It makes us question how we are as a modern society, everything that is wrong with it and everything right with it. Ceasar genuinely believes that Apes are better, but as the film unfolds he learns that ignorance and indifference is something you can’t prevent and maybe conflict is all but inevitable within nature.

This film not only shows us the potential of sci-fi but also how far performance capture has come. Andy Serkis has revolutionized the film making tool and proves that it shouldn’t be ruled out as a legitimate method of performance. A lot of buzz has gone around saying that Serkis deserves an Oscar nod after this performance, and I’ll have to agree. It’s amazing to even think that a man is literally playing Ceasar, all of his facial expressions, his movements, all these details which bring the character to life. Serkis expresses so many emotions just from these delicate details which is pretty amazing since Ceasar’s dialogue is quite limited. I’ve never felt such a strong connection with a non-human protagonist. That being said, Serkis is only one of many who use performance capture to play the ape characters. The likes of Toby Kebbell and Judy Greer prove that Serkis is not the only actor who can master performance capture. Kebbell especially puts in an absolutely terrifying performance as Koba, an ape who can’t forgive the years of torture ensued by the humans.

The only negative about the film would probably be the human characters, the only character which stands out is Malcolm (Jason Clarke), one of the few humans who see the apes in a much brighter light. He is to an extent quite an important character as he reminds Ceasar that not all humans are corrupt. Characters like Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) and Carver (Kirk Acevedo) represent how we find it hard to blame ourselves for the downfall of humans, even when the facts are right in our face. To an extent they mirror Koba’s same feeling of indifference.

As for the aesthetics, the CGI is a lot better than its predecessor by a large margin. The apes actually look real this time around, improving from the choppy CGI we had in the first film. The set design is incredible creating a post apocalyptic forest look to both San Francisco and the Redwoods, which sets up some incredible shots throughout the film. It’s just an overall great looking film. Also props to the sound mixing crew who created a genuine ape society atmosphere, sitting in the cinema and being able to hear apes surrounding you was not only awesome but put in perspective how many of them there were.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is definitely one of the best films of the year so far, not for its spectacle but more for its storytelling and direction. We’re being given an intelligent story about war and human nature, a film which makes us think rather than fry our brains, and for anyone who wants their brains fried, well apes on horses with guns!

Chef (2014)

Chef-1Roze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

Having gone through a stint of directing rather large budget films, Jon Favreau has “gone back to basics” with Chef, a film about cooking as a passion and a way of life. Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) is a passionate chef running his own kitchen at a stable restaurant, yet he is unhappy. Restaurateur Riva (Dustin Hoffman) wants him to play it safe but after countless years of serving the same food, all Casper wants is freedom so that he can go back to enjoying his passion once again.

Chef is one of those films that has you smiling throughout its run time, not purely from its humor but from its down to earth charm and feel good vibe. Everyone has a passion, it may dominate our lives or it may just be a hobby but we all have one. Seeing Carl Casper living his passion and being it is not only a joy to watch but inspiring for all us dreamers out there. Chef is a film that tells us that the measure of success is not large sums of money or working in a respected establishment, but the currency of happiness. Casper may have been blind to his unhappiness for years but once his creativity is obstructed he realizes that freedom is all he needs to be happy again, and just like Jon Favreau, going back to basics is the way to go.

What I love about chef is the detail that’s gone into depicting cooking and food as a passion, all the intricate details from handling the food to the acting. I totally bought into Jon Favreau’s character because he totally embodies this person who lives for food and all he wants to do is share his passion with others so that they can experience everything he loves about his art, and isnt that what all artists strive to do. But just like any art, it can be corrupted by external forces be it the industries or people that want to take control and that’s when problems occur. Ultimately the direction is brilliant, Chef is a film that knows what it wants to be, a grounded, character driven piece of film with a great soundtrack.

My favorite moments in the film are equally the same moments I hate because it makes me so damn hungry!. Seeing Casper handling his food as if each ingredient was his own child, so delicate and perfectly handled just hits home how much he loves what he does. It makes those father-son montages later on in the film that much more pleasing and effective, as we get to see Casper share his passion with his son. A relatable theme for me especially, bringing me back to the days where being told to do all the crappy chores from my dad was called bonding.

As for performances, props to Emjay Anthony playing Casper’s son, who gives for me the best performance in the film. He’s just a kid stuck in between his parents divorce who doesn’t quite understand it but at the end of the day he just wants to hang out with his dad. He’s innocent but optimistic, never intending to be overly emotional about the situation, just making the most of his time with his dad. As a result of his performance, the father son relationship steals the show.

It may not be the most eventful road trip film but it sure is the tastiest, offering an upbeat playlist of latin jazz and flavor, a film that will make you want to go out and partake in your passion.

Trailer Park: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)


Verdict: I would buy my ticket today if I could!

Director: James Gunn
Screenwriters: James Gunn & Nicole Perlman
Main Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, David Bautista, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Benicio Del Toro, John C. Reilly

Wow-zers that was a great trailer, now one month off its release I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for a marvel film. Was I excited for Captain America: The Winter Soldier? yes, but Guardians of the Galaxy is new territory for Marvel which makes it all that more intriguing. A lot of people have been saying it’s their riskiest film yet and I’d agree but I still think it’s going to make the big bucks. Not only because Marvel films have been killing it ever since The Avengers but because the marketing for this film has been incredibly smart. What makes this film risky is that no one is familiar with the characters, it’s Marvels first property since 2011 that isn’t a sequal. In terms of trailers they’ve done the smart thing in building up from telling us who the characters are to giving us an insight of the plot and the world that they live in.

The first trailer shows the Guardians lined up in a prison booking room where we are introduced to each of them and given background information about who they are. In a way it’s as if they’re previewing the roster just like a football match, and the ultimate effect is to arouse excitement. With this trailer we’re already going in having established who the characters are and what tone the film will take, and we leave with a better understanding of why they exist, the world they’re attempting to save and the villains they will come across, and it’s absolutely awesome. The set and costume design looks incredible, the CGI looks top notch and the characters look badass. In terms of tone it’s not something we’re unfamiliar with, and I get the feeling that we’ll be getting a film with a perfect balance of comedy and action as opposed to Thor: The Dark World which was inconsistent. Originally I was afraid of this approach as it could grow tiresome having seen it before in previous Marvel films. But having James Gunn involved, director of films like Super and Slither, it gives me a lot of hope for this film, as he obviously knows how to balance out the dark with the light, but more importantly he seems to know how to make a fun film. Having Chris Pratt as our lead is also a reason to feel positive about Guardians as he is killing it at the moment and as a fan of Parks and Recreation I couldn’t be happier for him. Overall we could be in for a great popcorn flick to come off a more politically thrilling Captain America film. On the other hand this could be a film that we’ve seen before and may be the first of the Marvel properties to not completely win the hearts of the public.

Off The Radar: Premature (2014)

premature-movie-poster-01-1390x2048Roze-Rating: 3.5 / 5

Premature may look like your average teen gross out comedy judging from the unknown cast and budget production, and you would be right to assume that but it doesn’t matter because aren’t the point of comedy films to entertain you and make you laugh? Rob Crabbe (John Karna) is a normal teen coming to the end of high school, but just like any male teen he has fantasies, fantasies causing him to wake up with slimy boxers and an awkward mother telling him to put his own sheets in the wash after walking in on him. What Rob soon finds out is that whenever he releases his special sauce during the day, he lands right back in bed in the same awkward situation as before. Some would find it a burden but eventually Rob embraces it, which could potentially break him out of the “curse”.

I’ve seen enough of these B-movie comedies to know not to take them too seriously, or expect a lot out of them, but something about Premature sets it apart from the others. For one the premise is quite fun, it’s already been branded as Groundhog Day meets American Pie, and I’d say that seems quite accurate. It has the exact same format as Groundhog Day but takes a more gross out, cheap laugh root towards its comedy. That being said the jokes try not to be cheesy or overdone, and that’s probably down to the comedic timing and likability of the cast.

There’s something about Craig Roberts that makes me laugh, it could be his stone cold facial expressions, the fact I can’t help thinking he would look good in glasses or his hilarious delivery, whatever it is it makes me want to see more from him. Improv or not he has some hilariously memorable quotes. An example “It’s a scientific fact that your blood pressure drops when you orgasm, it’s like your balls are shooting yoga through your veins”, classic. He’s already starred in recent hits such as 22 Jump Street and Neighbors, so he must be doing something right. Alan Tudyk also makes a memorable appearance as a college admissions officer who happens to be a widower. I know it shouldn’t be funny but Tudyk somehow makes it funny, big fan of his after his appearance in Transformers 3. Also look out for Adam Riegler who looks as though he was pulled out from a Nickelodeon sit com, definitely a highlight of the film. As for John Karna, he is one of the few unknown leads, in these kind of films, that actually look promising for the future. He may not have done anything groundbreaking but at least I wasn’t trying to pretend he could act which is usually the case for these films, and he made me laugh multiple times which is the goal right?

If the film ever reaches your cinemas, I wouldn’t tell you to go spending money on a ticket, but I would tell you that if you’re like me and find it hard looking for new comedies to watch due to watching them all already, then this is a perfectly fun film for your weekend screen fix.

Off The Radar: Grand Piano (2014)

grand_piano_still_a_lRoze-Rating: 3.5 / 5

Tom Selznick branded as the most talented pianist of his generation returns on stage for a comeback performance after five years of retirement, as a result of nightmare performance that halted his career in an instant. To add to his ongoing nerves, during the opening of his concert he discovers a message on his score sheet stating that he will be killed if he makes a mistake. While playing in front of a large audience, Tom must figure out who has him at gun point and for what reasons.

This isn’t your average thriller as the premise may suggest, and that may be why the film isn’t a complete flop. That being said behind the preconceived premise, the twists and turns that take place may not be as inventive as one hopes. What saves it from becoming a generic thriller is the direction of Eugenio Mira and performance of Elijah Wood, who has relished his freedom lately and taken up a number of low budget projects. Grand Piano is set in one location and is filmed in real time, yet it remains engaging and is rarely dull.

As classical music is, the camera work is elegant in its movement and is reluctant to use the same angles excessively keeping the location fresh but also working hand in hand with the music as a way of expressing the chaos taking place in front of a clueless audience. The cinematography as a whole is a good enough reason to watch this film. The editing is also masterfully utilized on occasions to symbolize violent acts, such as suddenly cutting to the stroke of a bow along a cello’s strings to show what crime had just occurred. Without the sophisticated camera work, Grand Piano would lack the thrills and tension which make the film at times exciting.

Upon doing some research I was surprised to find out that Elijah Wood has limited piano playing abilities and that most of what was filmed was the craft of his hands, and that alone merits praise for his performance. Having to concentrate on his precise hand movements, acting and listening to John Cusack via an earpiece takes some major multitasking skills and it totally succeeded. Despite not seeing much of John Cusack, his voice succeeds in being convincingly menacing.

It is an unusual film but that’s what gives it character, providing quite a pleasantly unique viewing experience. It’s tense when it intends to be and quirky in others, despite underwhelming twists and perhaps a payoff too, it’s a film definitely worth watching as a guide on how to make a low budget film that looks classy and is as intriguing as any other blockbuster thriller; and hey it make even convert you into a classical music enthusiast too.

The Lego Movie (2014)

the_lego_movie_2014-wideRoze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

Emmet is your average construction worker living life by the rules, always sticking to the instructions enforced by president Business. What Emmet isn’t aware of is that his mind is capable of so much more than conforming with everyone around him, and that he has the potential to be just as special as the people he looks up to. Unaware of the coming onslaught of President Business and his Kragal, Emmet finds the “piece of resistance”, the key to saving the universe they live in.

Coming from the directors of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and the “21 Jump Street” franchise, The Lego Movie clearly have Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s footprints embedded into it, from the quirky humor to the larger than life action sequences. Finally a film utilizing it’s ensemble cast to its full potential. Up and comer Chris Pratt is the highlight of the film, voice acting as Emmet, and for anyone who’s a fan of “Parks and Recreation”, will be pleasantly treated to a character with hints of Andy written all over it. We are also treated to the likes of Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Morgan Freeman and Will Ferrell, and other big name cameo’s on top of that. The cast may be large but they all have their moments providing laughs for both adults and kids.

The major highlight of this film has to be the animation which has reached new grounds making each piece of Lego look real enough to grab from the screen. As Lego should be, the aesthetics are colourfully glossy with no limits to imagination. The way the pieces move and assemble is masterfully animated, taking the old timers back to their childhoods and entertaining the kids, possibly giving them ideas for their next big creation. That is where this film succeeds, the Lego really are the stars of the film. Exuding a sense of nostalgia for the older audiences while creating an atmosphere of fun for everyone else.

Both Lord and Miller acknowledged that their first effort in film lacked heart and a true connection between audience and character, although Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was a success for its humor, this time around they’ve successfully found the best of both worlds. What I like about this film is that they never forget what Lego is all about and what it represents and in a way it’s a homage to the toy itself. President Business (Will Ferrell) is the bad guy, enforcing rules and instructions on the public with the ultimate goal of making things permanent. The film illustrates the endless possibility of Lego and encourages imagination and individualism going beyond the instructions you’re given, despite it being based on Lego, it goes for all things in life and that’s as big a connection you can make with an audience.

On top of the messages, what makes this film one of the best of the year, are the little details representing the nuances of playing with Lego, making it so relatable and real. for example the odd manual sound effects as a detachable building floor flies away, or the use of everyday household objects as toys, clueless to what they’re actually for. It’s a definite must watch film of 2014, and has Academy Award nomination written all over it.