Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Victor Frankenstein & Hunger Games:Mocking Jay


I was skeptical when I first started seeing the trailers a few months back, but I am a bit of a fan of the old school Hammer films and a sucker for a creepy looking period piece. I’m the sort of guy who gets sucked in with the promise of Van Helsing and I found plenty to enjoy with the Wolfman remake, all while fully recognizing the various faults and flaws in these films and lamenting the missed opportunities each film represented. And this movie reeked of missed opportunities and misguided ideas to cash in on all those things the other films aimed to achieve. I was going to see it anyway and I was going to swallow the suckage that it promised.

I was wrong.

Daniel Radcliffe’s “Igor” warns us from the very beginning that this is a story we know- the mad scientist, the dark and stormy night, the Monster, and all of the usual trappings we see in each and every Frankenstein adaptation. No one is trying to reinvent the wheel here and no one is going to even try. This is a familiar story and it’s not the first time this kind of story made an attempt at telling it from the assistant’s point of view, either. But what we’re going to be told is an interesting take on the story- hitting familiar beats, striking a few recognizable notes, but all done very well and with just enough difference to be unique into itself. This is very similar to the “Hammer” style of story-telling in that it takes familiar elements and then makes something a little different.

And this is really the first time we get extremely close to seeing the monster as it is described by Mary Shelley- over ten feet tall, with multiple organs and parts in order to retain the power necessary to bring the creature to life (Lightning, once again… though never what is actually specified in the book itself.) The CGI here is used in force perspective with practical effects for one of the best Monsters I’ve seen in recent years. And James McAvoy is maddeningly brilliant as the good doctor himself.

It’s utterly baffling to see this film take such a stumbling step forward on its release weekend, but the marketing of the film has done nothing to really sink its teeth into the fanbase. The timing of the release seems designed to bury the film that should have come this past Halloween in a place where it’s destined to fail, but let me assure anyone reading this that this film is definitely worthwhile and fun for the Hammer Horror fans who still dot the globe.

4 out of 5. Worth seeing and a definite recommendation.

“Hunger Games” : Mockingjay Part Two

I’m not a huge fan of the first “Hunger Games” film. I kind of enjoyed the second film because I thought it told a much better story and it explored effects of what surviving such a game could do to somebody. And I am probably the only person who actually preferred the slow-burn build in the third film, the exploration of Katniss’ use as a propaganda tool for a “rebel” force looking to sieze power, and the rescue of Peta as a big finale to the end. So I was pretty much looking forward to the fourth film- and then the reviews started to pour right in and I heard so much negativity that I nearly didn’t catch this film.

Let me say- I think the negativity is a little overboard in some cases. I think the film is overly long and that it never quite figured out what it should have been; brooding and dark or dangerous and exciting? The film was as indecisive as the story’s lead character- but more on that a bit later. Because of this very divided nature of the film, we were treated to long establishing shots that stuck to certain points for beats that were way too long and moments that never served the story’s interest. Despite that, I thought the film did manage to blur the lines of good and evil a little and it treated post-traumatic stress with a seriousness that it deserved.

But, let me stress this one point- Katniss. Jennifer Lawrence does a commendable job with the character, but she is ultimately one of the most self-absorbed characters on screen and manages to kill all sympathy I had for her with one brief scene near the end. Her decision to continue moving forward shred every last bit of respect or concern I once had for the character and, while I knew she would ultimately survive, I’m very very glad she would have nightmares for the rest of her life.

3 out of 5 and worth seeing.

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