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The better a series gets (critically) the more pressure it gets for the next one to be better or even good. After a solid first entry and an excellent second, 'Mockingjay - Part 1' has some fairly sized shoes to fill. Even more so when the final book has been split into two - It worked out for 'Harry Potter'. Thankfully I believe it succeeded, not spectacularly but it succeeded none the less.
Set (as one would expect) after the events of 'Catching Fire', 'Katniss' has caused a ripple effect in the districts, causing them to stand-up against the capital. Rescued by District 13, she becomes the uprisings symbol - The Mockingjay. All the while the capital has 'Peeta'. It's become even more of a dystopia and apocalyptic than before with districts having been bombed as the capital attempts to control it. It's also a war of propaganda of visuals for both sides. It's darker and actively shows some surprisingly grisly (grisly for the age rating) details. The propaganda aspect is specifically interesting to me - as the film doesn't just focus on straight up fighting but also morale and the appearance from the outside.
We know as much about what's happened between the capital and the distracts as 'Katniss' does. So we're suppose to be as shocked and horrified with what the capital has done as 'Katniss' is when she first sees district 12 and what's left of it. But it felt slightly empty to me, the destroyed district and the pockets of fighters in various others seems some how hollow to me. I didn't get the sense to people had been murdered in their droves, it just looked like a desolate and already trampled city. Without there being some sort of look into what directly happened it didn't feel as effective as it should.
Despite that there's a real good attempt to flesh out 'Katniss' herself and her attachment to the war. She struggles with being the face but kept out of the action, a poster child that is on the fringes not able to do anything - shown even more so when a team are sent into get 'Peeta'. It does however, dip in parts with some scenes going on too long or feel unnecessary (to me).
Still, 'Mockingjay - Part 1' sets things up nicely for Part 2 and because of this I'm giving some of the negatives the benefit of the doubt right now (bumping up the core by 1). The decision to split the final book in two may be its undoing - and while it's worked elsewhere it still feels up in the air here. Even so there's enough of what makes this series interesting to make it feel part of the progression as well as something new like the psychological tactics and propaganda, to make me look forward to part two.
"You cannot...understand the importance of what I am doing here!".
Chronicling a real-life of someone who (to a degree) singly handedly won teh war against Nazi Germany by de-coding the most difficult puzzle (as he puts in the film) must be a hugely daunting task - for everyone involved, from actors to director to set design. Based upon the life of Alan Turing, 'The Imitation Game' is more than just a bipoic it's necessary - a film based on a genius mathematician who for years was vilified and ignored all due to his sexual orientation.
For those unaware 'Alan Turing' was the mind behind cracking the Nazi (seemingly unbreakable) Enigma Code during WWII. This film looks at his life - mostly during his battle with a machine that had 159 million million settings. As well as a look at his battle with his sexual orientation, the reason for the country at the time removing his contribution to the war effort. Due to it being based on real happenings the performance of the central character is all the more important than usual. Thankfully there are no problem here what-so-ever - 'Benedict Cumberbatch' (and 'Alex Lawther' as young Turing) is excellent in the role of 'Turing'. His nervous twitches and assured arrogance make him a joy to watch and 'Cumberbatch' really showcases the genius of 'Alan' - his personality may be abrasive but his genius was unquestionable.
There are elements of the story that one could see as point a finger at something that's not accurate (the covering for a spy) but I don't believe the intention was to try and disgrace 'Turing' - but rather a heavy handed way of adding more intrigue. It's passed by and not alluded to for more than a couple of minutes - but what it does do is drive home his logical analysis of situations as well as an earlier scene where they realise something about cracking the code.
It doesn't really do a whole lot wrong, but besides the above 'Joan Clarke' (Keira Knightley) doesn't really have much of an impact on the story - Keira does a good job regardless. It all seems just like an addition to 'make it want to cover up his homosexuality' than anything else. When it comes towards the end (where I believe the best scene is) and we're in Alan's house 'Cumberbatch' truly shines with a powerfully acted scene after his 'medication' and his attachment to his machine 'Christopher' is shown. It ends with how the country left him, ignored, scared and feeling worthless - when he wasn't, now we know he was the single most important key in winning the war.
Some may view some of the scenes as an attack on the great man - I see them as artistic license that to be perfectly honest wasn't need. But whatever you can say about that aspect the rest of the film does the great man justice. His obsession of breaking something that everyone else deemed impossible is an intriguing one. His inability to properly communicate with others as well as his sexuality became his undoing because of a ludicrous law. Something he couldn't solve no matter how long he would have spent on it. 'Benedict' delivers one of if not his best performance of his career and the rest of the cast are too far behind either . An excellently acted film honouring a man who never go his dues at the time and was betrayed by the very people he saved. Intriguing, interesting, sad and even funny at times, 'The Imitation Game' is one of the years best films.
Remember when bad films had a sense of humour that made them somewhat enjoyable?. When there was a tongue firmly planted in the cheek? When the cheesiness, ridiculous plot and laughable dialogue gave an endearing quality to what was essentially a mess? Well I can't any more because after seeing this, this dull, dull, dull film about turtles who are ninja's - memories of the past are beginning to fade. 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' has none of these qualities whatsoever.
Did I mention it's dull?
How can you possibly make a film about Teenage mutant ninja turtles this boring? Just saying the title should bring a smile to your face. But low and behold they did it, they made the impossible possible - giving me another contender for worst film of the year (Oh it's been kind to me this year with its crap). Taking the idea of the heroes in a half shell and smushing it into oblivion ' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' follows the usual story - turtles are hidden, splinter gets hurt by shredder, turtles beat shredder. It watches like a basic synopsis, there's nothing else to it. The script may as well have been titled 'My first script' because there's so much generic story progression (if you can call it that) that it seems like a bit of a joke or for the first college project.
Despite the title it seems more concerned with 'April O'Neil' assuming to peddling 'Megan Fox' good looks rather than her acting prowess - she does a decent job but for a film with this title there's too much of her. There's the usual, rich friend turns out to be bad. Trainer gets injured, Raphael (again) is on his own and has to rescue his brothers. (Seriously why is it ALWAYS Raphael - look he's my favourite of them but literally every film has him be the focus) Then they fight Shredder and stop is ludicrous plan. To give a point to take home and shine it's good to see they have Shredder actually speaking Japanese as well as the smooth (if somewhat fake) animation of 'Shredder' and the turtles fighting.
Naturally being a 'Bay' production there are a lot of loud noises and 'high octane' chase sequences - all of which are dull. Sliding down a snowy mountain on their shells should be more interesting than it was. And to put the icing on the cake not only are they horribly designed they're irritating. Ok scratch that one of them is irritating 'Michaelangelo' and the writers embarrassing attempts at jokes only dig this films grave even deeper.
I could write a 10 page essay on all the things this film got wrong, but I don't have the time and you shouldn't want to read it anyway. AVOID this film all costs, It joins an elite group of 'I, Frankenstein' and 'Into The Storm' receiving a whole one point from me. Pull of chase scenes and fight scenes that lack any sort of energy and half -decent CGI. This films plot has more in common with plot meaning land than it does writing. Dull plot, dull story, dull characters, dull action dull, dull, dull and......dull.
(P.S 'Will Arnett' why? why did you do this you're better than this.)
All the attention for this film will be on 'Gandolfini' and rightly so, a fantastic actor who unfortunately won't be doing what he was so good at any more. But 'The Drop' is also a good film - if you are of the type to stick with a film through it's bad patches. it has the ingredients for a sure-fire great film. Good director - check, Good writer - check and good cast - check. It has it all.
Crime drama is a genre that's had many great contributions - 'Goodfellas', 'The Godfather' etc.. and some bad ones too but it's always been a genre Iv'e considered to have more good than bad. 'The Drop' is more proof of this, sure it isn't on par with those two films I mentioned - but then what is?. But it's its own film a steady slide toward a great finish. 'Bob' (Tom Hardy) is a quiet sheepish bartender who along with his boss and cousin 'Marv. (James Gandolfini) are part of 'money drops' a funnelling system for the criminal underworld.
It attempts to juggle a few things, an inside job, a girl 'Nadia' (Noomi Rapace), a strange deluded man who won't go away. Mostly it succeeds. usually the thing that falls to the wayside is a half-assed attempt at a love interest. Surprisingly it's not what takes the hit, no, instead it's the inside job. It appears to be the focus but quickly becomes 'the distraction' and doesn't muster anything interesting.
No the real the interesting thing here is 'Bob' himself. A quiet occasionally stammering man. Who comes off as mild mannered and sweet at first. But the longer things go on we learn he isn't so mild and in a surprising finale - something is revealed. It did throw me and I always salute a film that can do this sort of thing. Equally the other characters have their quirks even those with little screen time Chovka - the Chechen crime boss. Its real strength lies in the build up the minor details, the characters. This isn't a film that demands your attention but it more earns your attention. The background story of pasts and the money drop isn't the important thing, what the characters do is. This is very much akin to 'Scorsese' in that regard, the characters are the main focus not what's happening.
It's not all great, the pay off for me wasn't quite enough for me after all the building - and putting things in place I wanted more. Yes there was an interesting revelation but it doesn't do much more with it - I guess it doesn't need too but like I said I did.
'The Drop' is a completely character driven affair and for that is succeeds, mostly. 'Bob' seems like an easy character to understand but becomes quickly more and more mysterious - while maintaining his outward appearance. Everything gets where it is partly because of the fine acting - particularly from 'Hardy'. But its script is also a major reason. It just lacks the bite I wanted, at times it lacked the tension I felt the film was going for. When it's good it soars but it also crashes at times, still for all the similar themes to other crime dramas the film has enough of itself in it.
"If you don't believe writing can be taught what will we do in your class?".
Much like Marc Lawrence's previous work - 'Music & Lyrics'. 'The Rewrite' is about second chances. However this time around the romantic aspect is (mostly) put to the side in favour of a more substantial look at 'Keith Richards' (Hugh Grant) life - a struggling writer. A lack of a romantic aspect is a shock given the initial vibe I got from the trailer. And whether that improves things is debatable as 'The Rewrite' is ultimately solid, decent, ok in my eyes.
'Keith Richards' seemingly can't get another movie script accepted - as the industry has changed and his ideas are no longer 'fresh'. He reluctantly takes a job at a University teaching screen-writing. It doesn't take too long to get going and quickly establishes the industry problem and his problems. The pacing is spot-on to begin with, Keith has a lackadaisical attitude and contempt for teaching - believing himself to be above it and that this is a minor stumble. Believing writing can't be learnt, his mind starts to change and his arrogant and carelessness begins to change - naturally a women is a part of the reason. 'Keith' is a well developed character but everyone else lacks the personality to be nothing more than side acts to the main event.
I have to say the first half of the film is much stronger than the second. It too quickly folds down into a typical revelation point - realising not being on point in the industry any-more isn't a bad thing but he could help future writers. Despite the characters being pretty bland the actors do a find job of keeping them above the water - occasionally throwing out a joke or two. There is chemistry between 'Marisa Tomei' and 'Hugh' something most of these things hand on and like I said even though it isn't a Rom-Com it helps the film immensely when things start to stutter.
The ending may be predictable and the amount of feel-good at times made me cringe slightly 'The Rewrite' has a lot of genuine heart to it and some decent laughs too. 'Hugh' and 'Marisa' match up well and the rest of the cast give there otherwise ordinary characters appealing. It has a good first act but as things wind down it rushes some of the issues with too little ease. Solid, but nothing more.