As we come to the end of The Hunger Games franchise, it feels a little strange to think that it only started out in 2012. Having efficiently cranked out an instalment each year for the past four years, it will go down as one of the swiftest (and successful) quadrilogies of all time. Whether it will go down as one of the best will likely be discussed in the coming months, but director Francis Lawrence can take pride in having concluded the series on a strong note. If Mockingjay: Part 1 was the calm, then Mockingjay: Part 2 is the angry, depressing, but no less compelling storm.
From the classic 1953 Disney animated adaptation to Steven Spielberg’s Hook in 1991, many filmmakers have tried to reinvent J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan on the silver screen with varying results. The latest director to walk the plank is Joe Wright; giving us a new origin story for the boy who wouldn’t grow up, the occasional entertaining set-piece can’t stop Pan from being a forgettable, CGI-overloaded mess.
Having given us movies such as Alien and Gladiator, there is a certain amount of excitement and expectation that typically surrounds a Ridley Scott production. With a recent output that consists of Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Counsellor, and Prometheus, those expectations have not been merited or met. Thankfully the director is back on form with The Martian, a fun and smart sci-fi which will have you laughing more than most comedies.
From Orson Welles in 1948 to Roman Polanski in 1971, William Shakespeare’s Macbeth has undergone many stage and screen adaptations in its 400 year plus history. The latest attempt to translate it to the silver screen comes from Justin Kurzel. It’s only the second feature from the Australian director, but he accomplishes an impressive feat in distinguishing his take from all that has come before it. It’s just unfortunate that much of Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter is undecipherable.
Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield make for an unlikely yet compelling duo in Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes, a powerful two-hander of a thriller that loses none of its impact despite its heavy-handed nature.
After a tone-setting tracking shot which features the body of an evictee who shot himself during the course of a foreclosure we meet Dennis Nash (Garfield, sans Spidey spandex for the first time since 2010), a construction worker whose trade has been hit hard by the financial crisis. With bills mounting up and no money to pay them with, it’s not long before ruthless real-estate broker Rick Carver (Shannon) is knocking at Nash’s door and evicting him, his Mother (Laura Dern) and his young son (Noah Lomax) out of their home. Desperate to get his family out of their now squalid accommodations, Nash reluctantly accepts an offer to work for the very man who evicted him in the first place.
Near the end of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, the sequel to Wes Ball’s decent YA adaptation The Maze Runner, the main character declares “I’m tired of running”. It’s a telling piece of dialogue that can be applied to this overlong sequel, which is sorely lacking in the necessary character and narrative legwork. It makes for the worst kind of middle chapter; one that you have to watch, but isn’t really all that compelling.
We immediately rejoin Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), Teresa (Kaya Scoledario) and the other Gladers who are now being transported to a remote complex following their escape from the maze. While his compatriots are all too happy with finally having hot showers, a bed, and more provided by the shifty man in charge Janson (Game of Thrones’ Aiden Gillen), Thomas is instantly suspicious of their new surroundings. It isn’t long before his instincts are proved correct, and the film’s best scene sees Thomas and the Gladers escaping the underground facility, emerging into the desolate and unforgiving Scorch.
Things start simply enough in Nima Nourizadeh’s American Ultra as we meet Mike (Jesse Eisenberg), an unmotivated stoner who works at his local cash and carry and lives with the girl of his dreams Phoebe (Kristen Stewart). Their lives are turned upside down when it comes to light that Mike is actually a highly trained sleeper agent created by the CIA, who have just targeted him for termination. To survive against deadly government assassins led by power mad agent Yates (Topher Grace), Mike must put his newly discovered set of skills to good use.