Tag Archives: Woody Harrelson

Out of the Furnace

Director: Scott Cooper, Main Cast: Christian BaleCasey AffleckZoe SaldanaWoody HarrelsonSam ShepardWillem DafoeForest Whitaker;


A story of brotherly love and loss in a small town of America’s Rust Belt. Russell Baze (Bale) works a dead-end job at the local steel mill, takes care of his very sick father with his uncle’s (Shepard) help and his younger brother Rodney (Affleck) has been stop-lost and will soon go back to Iraq. Being a decent, hardworking man and wanting to built a life with his girlfriend (Saldana) is not something that is usually rewarded in life and Russell’s fate is only about to get worse. He ends up in prison for drinking and driving, after being involved in a car crash in which people lost their lives. When Russell has finally paid his debt to society, a few years have gone by and his world has changed: his father is dead, his girl has moved on and shacked up with Wesley Barnes (Whitaker), the chief of Braddock’s police, and his brother is broken, lost and in deep with the wrong crowd, after coming back from his tour in Iraq.  Since the audience has met early on both the town’s small-time crook Petty (Dafoe) and the ruthless, all-round criminal DeGroat (Harrelson) from up north (Bergen, NJ), it is very clear that things will end bad, at this point it is just a matter of seeing how grim the story will turn out. Rodney is using his fighting skills as bare-knuckled boxer in illegal matches, trying to earn money to pay back a debt he has with Petty and have something left. Once he goes up in the Ramapough Mountains to fight in a match organised by DeGroat, he will never come back. This sends Russell over the edge and on a path of revenge but as Confucius said: “before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves”, which is quite an apt description of the ending. The slow burning pace of the movie, along with the rural and desolate settings, increase very effectively the foreboding mood of the story and a good characterisation keeps the viewer engaged. Although all the cast is excellent, I’d say that this is a Bale and Harrelson film, the latter in excellent form as the villain of the piece. Relentless 7/10

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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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