Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 2

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Poster for the movie "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2"

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

The fire will burn forever.

20152 h 16 min
Overview

With the nation of Panem in a full scale war, Katniss confronts President Snow in the final showdown. Teamed with a group of her closest friends – including Gale, Finnick, and Peeta – Katniss goes off on a mission with the unit from District 13 as they risk their lives to stage an assassination attempt on President Snow who has become increasingly obsessed with destroying her. The mortal traps, enemies, and moral choices that await Katniss will challenge her more than any arena she faced in The Hunger Games.

Metadata
Director Francis Lawrence
Runtime 2 h 16 min
Release Date 19 November 2015
Details
Movie Status
Movie Rating Excellent
Images
mockingjay

Katniss Everdeen – graphite by PJ

The fourth and final part of Hunger Games franchise is a much more robust animal than Part 1, the runt of the litter. The thin storyline in the first part could easily have been combined with this one and it smacks of spinning out the income stream.

That said however, the final film, restoring a tense narrative and stylish production, was a fitting end to what has been a stand out series. What’s not to like about a film that serves up strong roles for women AND a political message. (The universal and everlasting ‘when times are tough get the wage slaves to argue amongst themselves to distract from the real enemy, the elite’). The action sequences and effects are spectacular as Katniss and her band of commandos edge their way into the booby trapped Capitol to assassinate President Snow. As Katniss realises that one ruling elite is no different to its replacement the final outcome is flagged way in advance. I’m conflicted about the ending. Not to give too much away it seemed contrived, artificial and tagged on but on the other hand, maybe we needed that conventional reassurance?


Black Mass

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Poster for the movie "Black Mass"

Black Mass

Keep your enemies close.

20152 h 02 min
Overview

The true story of Whitey Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf.

Metadata
Director Scott Cooper
Runtime 2 h 02 min
Release Date 4 September 2015
Details
Movie Status
Movie Rating Good
Images
digital by PJ

digital by PJ

 

Jonny Depp does good psychopath.  A scary movie particularly as it’s based on a true story.  ‘Whitey’ Bulger was a notorious crime boss back in the 70s in Boston, USA and this film pulled no punches in portraying the violence and gore that ensued.  Depp was deeply disturbing as the dead-eyed Bulger, unmoved by the fear and death he left in his wake and carrying with him an almost palpable aura of menace.  Benedict Cumberbatch played Bulger’s brother, the upstanding senator and although I’m no expert on a south Boston accent Cumberbatch’s version of it did seem to wander around somewhat and has divided opinion on Twitter.  The few women that were in the movie were Bulger’s victims  in one way or another, the mother of his child, the threatened and intimidated wife of the FBI agent and the teenage girl he had murdered.  The only non-victim woman’s role was his mother.  Is the ‘hard man being especially close to his mother’ stereotype  actually true or just a cinematic  device to show us that even the the most evil psychopaths have some humanity somewhere? Good movie.  Enjoyed is not the right word, but I left feeling chilled by Depp’s portrayal.

The Lady in the Van

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Poster for the movie "The Lady in the Van"

The Lady in the Van

A mostly true story

20151 h 44 min
Overview

The true story of the relationship between Alan Bennett and the singular Miss Shepherd, a woman of uncertain origins who ‘temporarily’ parked her van in Bennett’s London driveway and proceeded to live there for 15 years.

Metadata
Director Nicholas Hytner
Runtime 1 h 44 min
Release Date 12 September 2015
Details
Movie Status
Movie Rating Very good
Images
Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith as Miss Shepherd

I had high expectations for this film and I wasn’t disappointed.  Maggie Smith was faultless in her role as the ‘noble vagabond’ Miss Shepherd who lived the last 15 years of her life in a van on writer, Alan Bennett’s London driveway.  Alex Jennings was superb as Alan Bennett to such an extent that when the real Bennett made a brief cameo at the end I wondered, for a split second, who was this imposter?

Played mostly for comedy there is an underlying pathos in the exploration of Bennett’s relationship with his mother and his own self deprecation.  “You wouldn’t see Harold Pinter pushing vans down the street!”  he mutters after being bullied into push starting Shepherd’s van.

The story itself (mostly true) is a little on the thin side and rather than a monologue we are given two Bennetts, the writer and the one who lived the ‘real life’.   This technique allowed us to see Bennett talking to himself about Shepherd as he coped with her less than fragrant presence on his driveway.

Special mention for the fabulous Frances De La Tour as Ursula Vaughan Williams.  I was surprised that James Corden ranked so high on the billing, if you’ve seen the trailer you’ve seen his complete role in the film.  One scene.

A sweet, unchallenging and heart-warming film.  Recommended.

 

Christmas with the Coopers (US title – Love the Coopers)

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Poster for the movie "Love the Coopers"

Love the Coopers

Christmas means comfort, joy and chaos.

20151 h 47 min
Overview

Movie blurb: "When four generations of the Cooper clan come together for their annual Christmas Eve celebration, a series of unexpected visitors and unlikely events turn the night upside down, leading them all toward a surprising rediscovery of family bonds and the spirit of the holiday."

Metadata
Director Jessie Nelson
Runtime 1 h 47 min
Release Date 12 November 2015
Details
Movie Media Cinema
Movie Status
Movie Rating Average
Images
Diane Keaton, graphite by PJ

Diane Keaton, graphite by PJ

 

This was the first semi-public (unlimited ticket holders only) screening at the brand new, just opened Cineworld cinema, 2 minutes walk from my house and I really wanted to like it.  Although this type of US comedy usually leaves me cold I’m more than willing to suspend a degree of cynicism  and embrace some schmaltz in a seasonal movie.  Christmas film makers note – I’ll make a ton of allowances for acting and production values if you can make me cry, even a little bit.  (One Magic Christmas anyone?)

So with belief duly suspended I braved the howling storm and went to this special showing clutching my temporary printed out unlimited cinema membership.  The cinema is shiny smart  AND has escalators!  Disclaimer: I haven’t been to the cinema for about 15 years so I may be a little too easily impressed.   The staff were lovely, genuinely helpful and there was a palpable sense of excitement and nerves in about equal measure.  The theatre itself was comfortable and wow, so much room in front of the seats nobody has to stand to let people pass any more and there are cup holders!  For all I know these ‘features’ could have been introduced 10 years ago or be brand new to this cinema, but having just woken from a ’15 year cinema gap’ coma, I was impressed.

I wasn’t quite so impressed with the film, sadly.   It felt like a retirement fund booster for the senior members of  its stellar cast, Diane Keaton, John Goodman and Alan Arkin.  The storyline was weak, fragmented and seemed like it was trying too hard to appeal to every demographic from teenagers to the elderly with a black, gay, cop thrown in for good measure.  The only time I laughed out loud was some gentle poking at the stereotypical values of a Fox News watching, evolution denying, anti-gun control Republican.  Easy target.   On a positive note the snowy Christmas settings were beautiful, the soundtrack included Nina Simone   and Otis Redding, and the cast included a very handsome doggy.  However, for me, the reveal at the end  just tied up the trite in a nice, neat Christmas bow.