Tag Archives: Liam Hemsworth

Quick ‘n’ Dirty: January at the pictures

In a vain attempt to keep up with all the films I watch I came up with this new series of posts. The idea is to bundle up speedy reviews of the movies I saw at the cinema and at home for which I have neither the time nor the inclination to write a full critique. The posts will be distinguished in two types: “at the pictures” and “at home”. So, without further ado, here’s January selection of films:

 

The Lobster: intrigued by a quirky trailer and some good reviews, I went in with high expectations for a captivating indie movie with a great cast. I came out sorely disappointed and confused. The film starts with an engaging premise of a near future society with a little twist in its social mores but, then, it loses momentum making the plot more complicated and without a clear direction or thesis. Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz gives solid performances but it’s not enough. Missed opportunity —4/10

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Black Mass:  it aspires to be a new Goodfellas but doesn’t have the guts to go all the way. Irish mob in the seventies fights the competition with the help of complacent FBI agents: it sounds good on paper but it doesn’t fully deliver. Johnny Depp’s chameleonic transformation into James “Whitey” Bulger, who ascends from petty criminal in South Boston to FBI’s most wanted status, is convincing but lacks bite. Notwithstanding the efforts of a great cast, Joel Edgerton and Benedict Cumberbatch in particular, the film has an uneven pace and not enough tension to win me over. I wonder what Scorsese would have done… oh wait, he made The Departed! No guts, no glory —6/10

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 2: typing this long title makes me already weary! First off: splitting the last part of a trilogy in two just to milk every possible dime from the audience is not cool, especially when there’s no real need for it. The story picks up exactly where it left off but a year of waiting it’s way worse than commercial breaks to get back into the rhythm and care for the characters. So Katniss and her ragtag gang of heros need to kill President Snow to finally end the civil war in Panem and it seems that they go at it all the wrong ways; I haven’t seen so many useless deaths since George Clooney’s in Gravity. Anyway, the good guys wins but there’s a price to pay…duh! It felt flat and unengaging and the multiple endings do not help.  Watch on TV —5/10

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The Big Short: Adam McKay takes on the not easy task to explain the root causes of 2008 financial crisis using as a starting point the eponymous book wrote by Michael Lewis. He takes a few liberties with the source material but he succeeds in getting through the most important facts and information with clever and funny breaking-the-forth-wall speeches and using Ryan Gosling’s character as guide for the audience. With a stellar ensemble cast at his disposal, McKay skillfully tells the story of a few individuals who saw the end of the real estate bubble coming and all the problems connected with financial derivative products. Despite the complicated and, some might say, dull subject the film is well-paced and funny with convincing performances. Special kudos to Christian Bale! Relevant and entertaining —7.5/10

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The Expendables 2

Director: Simon West, Main Cast: Sylvester StalloneJason StathamDolph LundgrenJean-Claude Van DammeChuck NorrisBruce WillisArnold SchwarzeneggerLiam HemsworthNan Yu;

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They are back! For the aficionados of action movies and the nostalgics of the 80s/90s action heros, Stallone penned another story of the ragtag outfit of mavericks. All the usual suspects are there, plus a young addition (Hemsworth), the de rigueur, tough lady (Nan Yu) and special guest stars (Schwarzenegger and Norris). The film’s plot is very predictable and overly utilised: our heros are on a “regular” job and, after explosions and general carnage, they save the day (Jet Li makes his token appearance) and meet an old friend, Schwarzy; after going back to civilization and some R&R, CIA black ops specialist (Willis) shows up and make the usual offer they can’t refuse: retrieve some precious but mysterious item and get a full pardon for previous misdeeds. Naturally nothing goes according to plan due to the bad guy and his minions, this time is Van Damme who plays the villain (what’s the deal with being evil and having an accent?!?) and he’s pretty spry for an old man. He kills the young and full of promises hero, of course, and the mission for Stallone & Co. becomes not only saving the world but avenging the dead (nothing’s really new isn’t it?). So our misfits fight against overwhelming odds helped by Norris (who looks as lively as his Madam Tussaud’s likeness), the Gubernator and Willis, ça va sans dire, they succeed on all fronts. As viewer you get all the classics, including the final fist fight between the Good Guy and the Bad Guy (Stallone-Van Damme), the brooding, philosophical reflections about life from the hero and the sappy note from the deceased. Humour (planned and unintentional) and tongue-in-cheek references are not enough to save this uber cliched movie. —4/10

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Director: Francis Lawrence, Main Cast: Jennifer LawrenceJosh HutchersonLiam HemsworthWoody HarrelsonElizabeth BanksDonald SutherlandPhilip Seymour HoffmanStanley Tucci

This second installment of the Hunger Games series (yep, I guess we can call it a series since there will be 2 more films) is surprisingly good. The story picks up almost right after the first movie ended. Katniss and Peeta are going through the country on the Victor’s Tour but serious unrest or even open rebellion is brewing in the Districts. Katniss is at the center of it all, being viewed as a symbol of hope and defiance of the establishment. After receiving an offer she couldn’t refuse by President Snow (finally we get to seen Sutherland flexing his acting muscles) and failing to deliver, she fears for her life and that of her loved ones and plans to run away with Gale’s help. He has a different opinion and wants to stay and fight. The new Head Gamemaker and Snow have a machiavellian plan to get rid of the thorn in their side, using as perfect opportunity the Quarter Quell, a special edition of the Hunger Games, this time the tributes will be selected among the victors of each district: Katniss is going back into the arena! The recurring cast seems more at ease in their respective roles, Jennifer Lawrence keeps up the good work and kudos are due to Harrelson, Banks and Tucci. The new faces (Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Jena Malone and Sam Claflin) are quite convincing as well. Loved that Hoffman is not wearing any weird make-up or clothes. We see a little bit more of the other Districts and learn more about Panem’s political equilibrium (or lack thereof), which is interesting. The film has a good pace and never a dull moment and it comes easy to relate to and root for our heros. Enjoyable —7/10

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The Hunger Games

Director: Gary Ross, Main Cast: Jennifer LawrenceJosh HutchersonLiam HemsworthStanley TucciElizabeth BanksWoody HarrelsonDonald Sutherland

Set in a dystopian future, where every year the Capitol, central government of Panem,  organises the titular games, a crossover between a reality show and a teen version of Thunderdome. The contestants (tributes) are 24, a girl and a boy from each of the twelve districts in which the country is divided. The Capitol, sort of 1%ers, needs to keep in line the districts, 99%ers, who rebelled back in the days but who are also the cogs of the country’s economy. Our heroine, 16-year-old Katniss, is a skilled hunter (more of a poacher, really) and provides for her little sister and mother; when her sis is selected by lottery for the Games (odds not in her favor in the least!), of course, Katniss volunteers to replace her (lucky for us, otherwise either the movie will be over or we would have witnessed the slaughter of children, no… wait, we still get to see that!). She and Peeta (seriously?!? a baker boy named after a type of bread?well yes, it is spelled differently but…never mind…) join the Games’ circus with its stylists, publicists, mentors, TV hosts and what not, for the two weeks preparation in the Capitol before entering the arena, which is a very hi-tech, giant Thunderdome: 24 kids enter, one kid leaves (the Victor). We then find out that the tributes from district 1 and 2 are the “mean girls” of the situation, little Rue will be Katniss’ protegee, lots of other kids are just cannon fodder and Peeta has a major crush on Katniss…we didn’t see this coming, did we? Especially because Katniss doesn’t have a “thing” with Galen, her hunting buddy back home…love triangle boy-girl-boy, such a novelty! In particular considering the recent history of YA novels turned into films or TV show (I’ll give you a hint: vampires). Anyway amor omnia vincit or, at least, increases your survival odds. I would have dismissed the film as another bait for the Twilight audience  but Jennifer Lawrence can really sell the character. I’ve been keeping an eye on her since “Winter’s bone” and she doesn’t disappoint. Josh Hutcherson, being an old hand at the craft, delivers an honest portrayal of Peeta and even Liam Hemsworth shows some changes in his expression. Banks and Tucci are hidden under an excess of make-up and improbable wigs and Sutherland does just a cameo. We’ll see what happen in the upcoming sequel. —6/10

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Empire State

Director: Dito Montiel, Main Cast: Liam HemsworthMichael AngaranoDwayne JohnsonEmma Roberts

Boy dreams to become a NY policeman but he ends up becoming a security guard for an armored car depository.  His dream in tatters, he decides to organise a heist at said depository with the help of his best pal, a petty criminal. Things get complicated, then messy and finally they spiral out of control. Michael Angarano’s performance and the characterisation of the Greek neighbourhood in Brooklyn are the only noteworthy things of the whole film. They reminds me of James Ransone’s character and the “Greek” connection in season 2 of The Wire; ironically, Ransone plays here an FBI agent while Paul Ben-Victor is the father of the lead and an ex-cop. For the rest…well, Liam Hemsworth has the emotional range of a flatworm, which makes me regret the absence of Channing Tatum, Montiel’s favorite actor, and it is something, because I’m really not a fan of the guy! Dwayne Johnson as the tough, good cop is utterly forgettable and Emma Roberts seems like she dropped in by chance. Montiel had a good idea but he comes up short. Wasted opportunity! Watch “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” instead.  —5/10

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