In a relentlessly paced thriller, directed by Francis Lawrence and based on the best-selling novel by Suzanne Collins, the dystopian sci-fi setting allows for a number of contemporary allusions: while Katniss contemplates a suicide attack against the Capitol, her superiors President Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) manipulate her fame as the ‘Mockingjay’ to their own ends as part of the propaganda war against President Snow, despite Katniss’s stated ambition to ‘die for a cause, not a spectacle’.
Meanwhile, Katniss and her colleagues try to rehabilitate Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), a former hero of the rebellion who has been brainwashed under torture ordered by Snow into becoming an assassin whose target is Katniss.
It all makes for a fascinating blend, not least in terms of how a movie designed as a crowd-pleasing blockbuster derived from young adult novels manages to accommodate a bracing cynicism about the management of war, and the tone grows surprisingly, but appropriately, more downbeat as events propel the story to its inevitable climax and the attack on the Capitol evolves into the Hunger Games on a grand scale.
Jennifer Lawrence is in stirring form as the scruffy, world-weary young rebel, and she gets strong support from a terrific supporting cast, of which Donald Sutherland is the most impressive as he invests President Snow with an unexpected pathos.
(15A) opens with political lobbyist Leah (Sanaa Lathan) splitting up with her boyfriend of two years, Dave (Morris Chestnut), because he can’t provide the long-term commitment she craves.
Leah despairs of ever finding happiness, but soon she meets Carter (Michael Ealy), an unusually suave, sensitive and charming man – but is Carter, who specialises in corporate espionage, too good to be true?
Directed by David M. Rosenthal, The Perfect Guy develops along expected lines: just as Leah is beginning to believe she has found true love with Carter, he explodes in a violent rage; when a shocked Leah refuses to continue their relationship, Carter – diagnosed as ‘bi-polar, devolving into psychosis’ – turns into a malevolent stalker.
Rosenthal and screenwriters Alan McElroy and Tyger Williams leave no cliché unturned as Carter torments Leah, and some of the scenarios, intended as creepy, are faintly ridiculous.
While the storyline remains rather predictable throughout, however, it’s also undeniably effective, especially in terms of how helpless Leah is in trying combat Carter in strictly legal terms – her relationship with the hard-nosed Detective Hansen (Holt McCallany), and the ‘extra-legal’ advice he gives her, provides the story with an edge it elsewhere lacks.
Michael Ealy struggles to give the overwrought character of Carter a plausible reading, but Sanaa Lathan’s performance as Leah, by turns bewildered, terrified and vengeful, gives the movie just enough grit to make the overly familiar twists and turns worth your while.
(12A) is a documentary by Gabriel Clarke and John McKenna about ‘the most seminal moment in [McQueen’s] life’ – his gloriously doomed attempt to blend his twin passions of film and motor-racing in the movie Le Mans.
By 1970, and courtesy of The Great Escape, Bullitt and The Thomas Crown Affair, Steve McQueen was Hollywood royalty, both actor and producer, with his own production company and carte blanche to make whatever movie he wanted.
Driven to create a motor-racing movie that was as close to reality as possible, however, McQueen focused on the authenticity of the Le Mans 24-hour race at the expense of everything else (there was no script, for example, when shooting began under director John Sturges); and as the problems piled up the shoot began to spiral out of the control. Clarke and McKenna employ on-set footage of McQueen and his co-stars, a voiceover by McQueen himself as he talks about his career in general, and straight-to-camera interviews with Neile, McQueen’s son Chad and some of the participants in the Le Mans production.
The result is a fabulously detailed portrait of a fascinatingly flawed man, as the ‘King of Cool’ is brought to boiling point during Le Mans and discovers in the aftermath that his appetite for life – subsequent box-office hits such as Papillon and The Getaway notwithstanding – has mysteriously evaporated.
Mockingjay Part 2 4/5
The Man and Le Mans 4/5