Review – The Hunger Games

A girl voluntarily takes part in the Hunger Games – a televised fight to the death in which two teenagers from each of the twelve Districts are chosen to compete.

Each year, a boy and a girl are chosen at random to represent their district in the annual Hunger Games. The twenty-four participants are forced to eliminate their fellow competitors whilst citizens of Panem, a dystopian North America, are all required to watch. When Katniss Everdeen’s (Jennifer Lawrence) sister is chosen to represent District Twelve, she steps forward to take her place. She and her male counterpart, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are pitted against bigger, better, strong competitors, some of whom have been training their whole lives for this.

I’ll be honest with you here, when it came to the Hunger Games, I didn’t exactly know what to expect. I hadn’t read the books; therefore all I was going on was the word of people at school, who all said that it was a good film. However, many of them said that about the Twilight Saga a few years back, so I didn’t take what they had said about this as the gospel. The conclusion I came to after watching this was that it was nothing extraordinarily good, but that I have also seen much worse films made primarily for a teenage audience (please note every street dance move that has been made in the last decade).

This was very much the same for all aspects of the film. The aching, for example, was nothing unforgettable, but everybody could at least act and that’s all I could really ask for. Lawrence as Katniss was good; I genuinely believe she was the best person to play the gutsy teen. Lawrence seems to have a sense of humour that allows her deliver Katniss’ sarcasm brilliantly, and she also seems to be a really down to earth person which helped her pull of the role so well.

Hutcherson as Peeta was also very watchable. The initial relationship he had with Katniss at the beginning of the film could, at times, be very entertaining as Katniss clearly was the one wearing the trousers. However, whilst Katniss was a tad highly strung, Hutcherson brought some rationality as Peeta. They made for a very good on-screen duo which is probably why The Hunger Games is so bearable.

However, for me, the sole reason I stuck around from the beginning to the end was due to the presence of Liam Hemsworth, younger brother of the younger Chris. I will raise my hands now and say that both siblings are fine specimens of the male subspecies, and I just wish that Hemsworth could’ve gotten a little bit more of screen time as Gale, best friend of Katniss (although if I was Katniss, there would be NO way on the Earth I’d have friend-zoned him).

All in all, I would definitely say that The Hunger is worth watching. No, it’s not ground breaking cinema, but it’s a damn sight better than some of the teenage drivel that we’ve had to put up with of late. My one major qualm? More Gale next time, please.

Review – The Godfather Part III

An ageing Michael Corleone looks to be redeemed for his sins and remove himself from the violent underworld, only to be held back by the ambitions of his young protégé.

In the final instalment of The Godfather Trilogy, ageing don Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) is trying to legitimise his business dealings in New York and Italy, whilst also making plans for his exit from the violent world he has grown too old to contend in . He takes on a protégé in the form of his late brother’s love child, Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia), who informs him of a hungrier gangster seeking to topple the Corleone empire. Michael must deal with all this, plus his successor’s love for his daughter, whilst simultaneously limiting the damage caused to the rest of his family and associates.

First of all, let me just say I didn’t think that, on its own, The Godfather Part III was as good a film as the other two were, however alongside its predecessors, it does make for a wonderful ending to the legendary saga. No, it doesn’t quite have the legs to stand on its own two feet up against Parts I and II, but I feel as though it had to be done to bring closure to the whole tale surrounding the Corleone family and business. If The Godfather Part III had not have been made, everyone who watched the first two films would have been left with the very open-ended matter of what exactly became of Michael and his family. For those of you who have seen the trilogy, don’t even lie and say you were left completely satisfied by the ending to Part II, because I know you weren’t! You needed something more. And I believe Part III fully delivered, even if, sadly, it has been overlooked by many.

The one thing that no one can fault about these films is the quality of the performances. Whilst many people may say that the plot standard dropped with this film, no one can say the acting was any inferior. This saw Pacino reprise his role of Michael Corleone despite 16 years having passed since he last made an appearance as the don. The final third of the trilogy is set in 1979, the best part of twenty years on from when we last saw him. With this in mind, you’d have thought perhaps he might have mellowed a bit with age. On the face of it, you might believe this to be true – after all, Michael is looking for a way out of the rough world in which he has lived for so long. But he still sits in that position, and he still has the deadpan facial expression that I’ll admit makes me unsure of the sort of mindset he is in. One thing is for sure, throughout the three films, Pacino has never missed the mark when it came to playing Michael.

The Godfather Part III introduced Andy Garcia as Vincent Mancini. He was Michael’s nephew who, seeing as Michael’s son wanted nothing to do with the family business, looked to take over after Michael. As he was Sonny Corleone’s son, Garcia had to try and recreate the same fiery temper displayed by James Caan in the first film so, basically, he had a hard act to follow. However, I can’t fault the performance he gave, so I guess really its just another job well done.

Overall, despite not quite matching the previous chapters, I still highly recommend that you see The Godfather Part III. It rounds the trilogy off very nicely and I strongly believe it deserves more credit than many give it.  

Review – The Godfather Part II

The continuing saga of the Corleone crime syndicate shows how it all began with a young Vito Corleone, whilst following Michael Corleone as he prepares to expand the family business.

Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) looks to expand his business to Las Vegas, Florida and pre-revolution Cuba whilst also experiencing a collapsing marriage and a failing relationship with his brother. Go back fifty years and the early life of Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) is shown. He transforms from a young Sicilian-born boy into one of the most respected and feared Mafia Don’s in 1920s New York.

First of all, can I just say that this may be a sequel to The Godfather, but for it just to be known as The Godfather’s little brother would be a serious injustice. The Godfather Part II has enough to be a film in its own entirety, but seeing as it is, officially, a sequel, let’s just say that it is the best follow-up to a film to ever have been made.

Once again, the performances were amazing. Pacino as the ruthless Michael gave just as intense a performance – perhaps even more so – as he did in the first film. There was something about the way he played Michael that gave him a real unpredictability. Generally, he was very mild mannered, but if he was pushed far enough, Michael made people sorry they had ever existed. The thing that did it for me was the way Pacino would just walk into a room, pull up a chair and sit there with his legs crossed, leaning back all relaxed with his head resting on his hand. There was something about him sitting in that position that terrified me. It just looked as though he was constantly thinking of horrible ways to kill people. But the way he sat was also the customary seated position that all fictional TV therapists adopt, therefore Michael always seemed to be open for those he was talking to to confide in him, thus revealing all their secrets and anything about any plots against the Corleones. Needless to say Michael was a very clever character who definitely took the saying, ‘keep your friends close, and your enemies closer’,very seriously.

It was also in this film that Robert De Niro won his first Oscar as the young Vito Corleone. Fair play to De Niro as his role involved him speaking most of his lines in Italian. I mean, I’d imagine joining something as ground-breaking as this would’ve been daunting enough without having to say nearly all of your lines in a foreign language. Take it from me; I’ve recently just completed a GCSE in French and the oral examinations for that were terrifying, so speaking all of your dialogue in Italian in what is the biggest film trilogy of all time doesn’t really bare thinking about for me. Still De Niro grabbed the role by the short and curlies and absolutely nailed it. He really showed the qualities portrayed by Marlon Brando as the more mature Vito in the first film, and I believe it was those two things that won De Niro the Academy Award.

Second time round and we still have the collaboration of Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo devising the screenplay. I still stick by the idea that it was a very good decision allowing Puzo’s input as it kept the intentions of the saga’s author as the basis for the film and the characters.

So, yet again, I’m going to order you to watch this film. It is as good as the first, plus you know you want to see what happened to the Corleone empire after Michael flexed his muscles at the end of the first film. 

Review – The Godfather

The ageing patriarch of an organised crime ring passes over control of his age-old empire to his unwilling son.

After turning down a deal with drug dealer Virgil Sollozo, ageing head mobster Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) has an attempt made against his life. After barely pulling through, one of the Don’s sons, Michael (Al Pacino) exacts revenge by beginning a Mob war against Sollozo, which inadvertently rips the family apart.

I’ll admit, I’m quite scared when it comes to reviewing The Godfather. It is basically the daddy of all films, and doing it justice is a very daunting task. The way I see it is this – you get the ultimate gangster film, but also one of the greatest films to ever have been made, possibly the greatest. The story is perfect, the acting is flawless, and the directing is by Francis Ford Coppola, so if you’re wanting me to pick faults, I’m sorry, but I can’t. Instead, I will spend the next few hundred words singing its praises.

Marlon Brando was cast as The Godfather, Vito Corleone for a reason, that reason being whenever he acts, you get a performance of biblical proportions. He was just mesmerising, simple as. He drew you in, and when he said those words, ‘I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse’, you knew straightaway that no one was going argue, and that you weren’t leaving your seat for the next three hours. The whole thing is a real masculine affair, with some of Hollywood’s most iconic and well-known leading men; Brando in front, followed by Pacino, James Caan and Robert Duvall.

Pacino as the reluctant Michael Corleone was equally as sublime. He played the WW1 veteran who just wanted a normal life, but unfortunately for him, he was the only real suitor to his father’s position. And, although, he never really wanted to be his father’s successor, Michael took up the post with vast ruthlessness. When it came to ridding his family of enemies, he didn’t mess about. He personally murdered a corrupt police chief and the mobster he was servant to, and then he had the heads of five rival families killed. Dearest Michael certainly threw himself into his new role, didn’t he? And Pacino threw himself into his and he was brilliant! He really captivated the audience and made it very hard to pay attention to any of the other characters whenever he was on screen.

James Caan played Sonny Corleone, the oldest of the Corleone children. He was very protective of his family, and a total hothead which, with the situation surrounding the Corleone family throughout the film, was probably not the best qualities for the oldest brother to have. Caan, much like everybody else, was magnificent. The way he’d fly off the handle whenever it turned out his sister Connie (played by Talia Shire) had had a domestic with her husband was tremendous – a pleasure to watch.

Finally, we have Robert Duvall, who plays Vito Corleone’s adoptive son, Thomas Hagen. He acted as the family lawyer for his father, and was generally the voice of reason for all business matters. Towards the end was when his performance peaked, as Michael returned and took over the family affairs. Thomas was pushed out of everything, and Duvall portrayed how dejected he felt beautifully.

The directing and writing were both faultless. Francis Ford Coppola did a wonderful job in achieving the vision he had in mind, and his collaboration with Mario Puzo on the screenplay is where I believe the success of the film lies. Puzo wrote the novel, and I think his input in taking it from page to screen helped keep the rawness of the story in tact.

Basically, the essence of what I’m saying is that you have to watch The Godfather, there is absolutely no doubt about it. You will probably never see a more perfect masterpiece. This is unmissable, capiche?

Review – Breaking Bad Full Series Review

A high school chemistry teacher with terminal lung cancer decides to try and make some extra money for his family to live on when he’s gone by embarking on a career manufacturing crystal meth with a former student.When he is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at the age of fifty, Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) world crumbles around him. He knows he can’t afford treatment and cannot bear the prospect of leaving his wife, son and unborn child in hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt when he eventually dies. Instead, he enlists the help of former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) in manufacturing and distributing methamphetamine. Walter needs to make roughly $750,000 before he can retire from the business, and with the purity the boys can achieve, they’ve little competition and it doesn’t look like it will take them long to reach their targets. Of course, what would be the fun in having everything go to plan for them?

In 2008, Breaking Bad took the world by storm when it announced the arrival of Netflix and online streaming. Season one consisted of eight episodes, and came very close to never being made. The writers first took the pilot script to HBO who rejected their proposal thinking the show would never take off. How wrong were they? Netflix came along and snapped it right up and five seasons and many Emmys later, they have what has been rumoured to be one of the greatest TV shows of all time. The reason you are getting a review of the whole series as opposed to a rundown season to season is due to the fact that I don’t have Netflix. I watched Breaking Bad after Spike TV gained rights to it, and so for the past couple or three months, I have watched all five seasons. They all came pretty thick and fast (during my exams, I might add) and it just wasn’t do-able, so I shall now cover the whole show.

Season one laid the foundations for the programme to be built upon. In all fairness, when it comes to the storyline, it wasn’t all that great. Not an awful lot happened for two reasons. The first being that it only consisted of eight episodes due to a writers’ strike, the second being that no one knew how the public would react to the series, therefore they did not want to get too deep into anything as there was always a chance that it could end after the first season. However, it proved a hit and properly took off in season two, and this was when it really started to grab my attention. Big time drug dealers start appearing and the lives of both the meth cooks begin to get very erratic. I suppose you could say it started to get exciting due to the arrival of very unpredictable characters who made the lives of our two criminal masterminds very difficult.

Now, season two certainly stepped things up a notch, but then season three came along. Oh… My… Word… This was where the stakes were raised. BIG TIME. Walt and Jesse got themselves a lawyer, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), who set them up with a new distributor, Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Gus was a total madman who definitely livened things up. However, this season was where the show’s very experimental nature was revealed. They made a whole episode centred around Walt and Jesse trying to catch a fly, for God’s sake! And they pulled it off. I think it was this season that really showed the balls a Breaking Bad had.

Season four was based mainly around Walt and Jesse’s many plots to kill Gus. After a hit on someone close to him, Walt realises that the net is closing in – Gus clearly has a problem and so Walt decides it is either Gus or him. That really is all I can say about that without giving too much away.

And as for season five? This is where it all ends. The boys are looking for their way out and all the loose ends of the story are tied up. And then there is, of course, the finale, but again, if I say much more, I’ll end up ruining it for you.

The reason for the show’s success, I believe, was down to the numerous, wonderfully complex characters that were created by the writers. They made characters that drew the audience in – each individual in the show would attract different people hence why it was so versatile and received the attention it did – and because you got attached to these characters in such a way, you found yourself going back for more. Some of them had very addictive personalities, and when you paired this with the circumstances they often found themselves in, it more often than not made for very entertaining, very gripping viewing. To cut a long story short, it’s a big thumbs up for the people built into the story, and an even bigger one for those who wrote it.

All this talk of characters brings me on to some of the actors performances. I’ll start with Bryan Cranston aka Walter White. He was very good! I would imagine he was very grateful for his job here as it propelled him into the limelight and has earned him a string of roles since. He really got into the role of Walt, and it certainly showed. I very much enjoyed watching him as the criminal mastermind using 30 years of science as the basis of his drug dealing empire. And when he’d start threatening people taking on the persona of his alter ego, Heisenberg……. oooooh, he was brilliant!

Then, of course, there is Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman. Before this, I had never seen him in anything, I had barely even heard his name mentioned outside of Breaking Bad. However, after watching his flawless performance as the junkie/manufacturer/recovering addict, his name should be known by everyone – universally recognised and universally respected. Jesse had demons. And the raw emotion displayed by Paul in his performance was awe-inspiring, I honestly don’t know how else to put it.

Throughout the course of the five seasons, many character came and went, and there were those that travelled the journey with the two cooks. Anna Gunn played Skyler, Walt’s wife, and whilst I didn’t particularly like the character, I must admit that her performance was spectacular. There was also RJ Mitte who played Walt’s son, Flynn or Junior depending upon the mood he was in. The stand-out detail about this though is that Walt’s son was written as a cerebral palsy sufferer. Mitte also suffers with the condition, however fortunately for him, his is a milder form. This meant he had to adapt his speech and movement for the role, and I greatly admire the dedication he showed for his role. Walt’s in-laws were played by Betsy Brandt and Dean Norris. The family setting was very important as the whole reason the meth cooking started was due to Walt’s diagnosis, and it showed the strains that sort of predicament takes on an entire family.

However, business associates also, inevitably, had to come into play. My favourites? Gus Fring and the lawyer, Saul Goodman. Gus (played by Giancarlo Esposito) and Saul (Bob Odenkirk) were both very charismatic people and were extremely entertaining to watch. For this reason, I think I may have to give the spin-off series, Better Call Saul, a go.

Unfortunately, there was something that I really didn’t like. The finale. Quite honestly, how can you spend five years building something of that quality to end it like that I do not know… The final episode very nearly caused me to fall into a severe depression. It was way too rushed, and I feel as though the whole of season five and very possibly the end of season four were to blame for this grossly anti-climactic finish. Too many characters got involved too late on and the fact that they all had to be silenced one way or another was the sole reason for such an unintelligent finale.

Overall, I greatly recommend that you watch Breaking Bad. The whole series is simply spectacular, even if the ending is something that I’d rather not talk about. Watch the first season, pick a favourite character, then enjoy the rest of the ride.