Archive for April 4th, 2012

April 4, 2012

The Hunger Games (2012 – Cinema)

“You’re our mentor, don’t you have any advice?… Yes, embrace the probability of your imminent death”

To use a bad pun, ‘The Hunger Games’ left me hungry for more, more from the film in general but also it intrigued me enough that I want another helping from an inevitable sequel.  For financial reasons the filmmakers wanted the movie to be available to the same age bracket as the Young-Lit book it’s based on so they’ve trimmed the more violent aspects of the story to get a 12A rating. Considering the story is set in a post-apocalyptic nightmare future where impoverished children are forced to fight to-the-death for the amusement of a rich and powerful fascistic elite… it looks like they had to trim quite a bit!

‘The Hunger Games’ feels like it’s reaching for the same gritty and cynical 70s Sci-Fi ground as films like ‘Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes’, ‘THX 1138’, ‘Soylent Green’ or ‘Death Race 2000’.  But it never quite digs deep enough into the politics or cranks up the dehumanizing violence to earn that accolade.  Also similarities to the vastly superior and stomach churningly violent film ‘Battle Royale’ are unfortunate.  I remember exiting a screening of that film in Newcastle in 2000 to see that my friend’s face had gone white and he was of the opinion that a film that disturbing “Should never have been made”. I don’t somehow think anybody will be as profoundly affected by ‘The Hunger Games’.

The costumes and hair does are wonderfully colourful and outlandish bringing to mind the awesome job Jean-Paul Gaultier did for Luc Besson’s visionary Sci-Fi masterpiece ‘The Fifth Element’ Jennifer Lawrence’s truculent performance as Katniss is superb but I thought casting a girl in her twenties as a teenager robbed the film of some of the emotional power and tension.  Lenny Kravitz is a walking charisma vacuum as one of Katniss’ mentors but Woody Harrelson steals the whole show as her other mentor, alcoholic former Hunger Games winner, Haymitch.  Despite its many flaws, I’m actually excited about going back to this world (In the next film) if only to see if the filmmakers can do more than scratch the surface of this potentially deeply thought provoking world.

April 4, 2012

Stormy Weather (1943 – DVD)

“I sure hope I’ll be able to walk out of here without any trouble… me too”

I’d read Fred Astaire’s quote that the ‘Jumping Jive’ sequence (Performed by the incredible Nicholas Brothers) in 1943’s ‘Stormy Weather’ was “The greatest movie musical number I’ve ever seen!” and he should know.  I managed to find a copy in LoveJoys in Covent Garden and took a punt hoping it would be a decent DVD transfer.  I was delighted when it not only turned out to be a crystal clear presentation but one of the best musicals I’ve seen.

Unusually for a film of the period ‘Stormy Weather’s cast in entirely African-American featuring some of the greatest musicians of the time like Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, Dooley Wilson, Cab Calloway, Ada Brown and Fats Waller. The best scenes feature Robinson and Wilson as a couple of wise cracking chancers trying to break into show business.  Perhaps operating to the sidelines of the Hollywood mainstream allowed the script writers to be a little loser and baudier than usual and the jokes featuring these two are a rapid fire riot.  One or two of the songs featuring female lead Lena Horne sound a little dated but mostly the soundtrack rocks.  The best number is a rambunctious bar-room-blues version of ‘That Ain’t Right’ performed by Fats Waller & Ada Brown.  I know this is gonna be a favourite film that I’m gonna watch and watch.

You can watch the finale featuring the Nicholas Brothers’ jaw dropping tap routine below:

April 4, 2012

Great Expectations (1946 – Blu-Ray)

“I realized that in becoming a gentleman, I had only succeeded in becoming a snob”

The all time BFI top five film is David Lean’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’ from 1946, and I’d never seen it.  I spotted it was available on Blu-Ray so added it to my LoveFilm list and it turned out to be a treat.  The transfer, while very scratchy (Showing little digital restoration) is very sharp and looks wonderful if a little antique.  Lean brings a dark brooding Noirish feel to the story making use of his ever-present eery wind-swept landscape shots.

I’d heard John Mills (Then in his late 30s) looked way too old to pay the young character Pip but I thought he just about got away with it.  Alec Guinness (Also in his thirties) gives great support as Pip’s scampish young friend in the first of many roles he would play for Lean.  Francis L. Sullivan gets all the best comic moments as the imposing rotund lawyer Mr Jaggers.  But for me the 14-year-old Anthony Wager as the young Pip (In the first third of the film) steals the show from any of these seasoned old thesps.