[Part 2] Introducing Generation Dystopic

Maze RunnerHot on the heels of The Hunger Games and its sequel, Catching Fire, was The Maze Runner, released in 2014. The second film in the trilogy, The Scorch Trials, was released in 2015, with the final film, The Death Cure, slated for December 2017.

While I can’t yet comment on the final film, The Maze Runner series has proved very interesting so far in that the setting changes entirely between the first and second film.

While in The Hunger Games series Catching Fire keeps its focus firmly on the events of the Hunger Games, the action shifts from the relatively tranquil The Glade in The Maze Runner to the world beyond its surrounding maze: the scarred remains of a city.

It’s a dramatic shift and one that doesn’t entirely pay off.

As a viewer you also leave The Glade, its handful of inhabitants and any theories you had about its existence. Like the Gladers you are suddenly confronted with the scientists allegedly behind the maze experiment, zombie-like people that have been infected with a virus and the remaining healthy people who are trying to keep safe and protect themselves.

While I enjoyed both The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials, giving each a four-star rating, I think the series has lost part of its USP by introducing these other elements. To me, it felt as if The Scorch Trials combined elements of such films as 28 Days Later and Mad Max: Fury Road. The world has grown bigger but my understanding of what is happening and has happened has grown smaller.

Perhaps the scene will shift again with The Death Cure, as it undoubtedly focusses on what this Flare virus is that has caused a large proportion of the population to take this gruesome state.

Perhaps when that final act has been played I’ll get more enjoyment out of the series as a whole piece; a greater understanding of the flow of the films as it travels from location to location.

Part 3 will be posted next week

Read Part 1 here

[Part 1] Introducing Generation Dystopic

If the likes of young-adult (YA) fiction authors Suzanne Collins, James Dashner and Veronica Roth are to be believed, we are heading for a distinctively dystopic future.

Their post-apocalyptic visions in the acclaimed series ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘The Maze Runner’ and ‘Divergent’ reveal new societies that have risen from the ashes of the old, seemingly stronger than their predecessors with a greater focus on ‘the needs of the people’.

Naturally, being YA fiction, the protagonists are teenagers, and the various plots focus on their attempts to discover what is really driving the new governments and leaders. Is there an ulterior motive behind the creation of Districts and Factions? And just what is the purpose of The Glade?

posters

With the big screen arrival of Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games in 2012, shortly after the novels’ publications, 2008-2010, the flood gates were opened for a new generation of teen films that were more action than angst.

While I’ve yet to see the fourth and final film in the series, The Hunger Games and its young cast have consistently delivered excellent films; I’ve scored each film either four or five stars.

Staying very close to the source material, which I read after seeing the first film, the society in which the series takes place – the fictional country of Panem separated into the Capitol and 12 Districts, each with their own specialism – is fascinating.

A focal point within the culture is the annual Hunger Games, a brutal fight to the death that representatives (Tributes) from each District take part in, supposedly serving as a reminder of what each District had to sacrifice in order to obtain this somewhat fragile peace.

Panem is totally immersive; through Katniss’ interactions with the other Tributes and people of Panem you begin to understand what each District is like and the friction between them. The Capitol is so extravagant and in such contrast to Katniss’ own District, the mining community of District 12, that you are fully on her side, empathising with her frustrations at the injustices in society.

While the idea of hosting a Hunger Games-style event may be far-fetched (for now, at least), the societal change does feel scarily plausible. With the Capitol’s omnipresent, quasi-paternal approach, you’re reminded of ‘1984’ and the TV show ‘Big Brother’.

Perhaps one day, in the not so distant future, it’ll come true.

Read Part 2 here

[Movies of the Month] January

January

NEW RELEASES
The Revenant – Epic in various senses of the word, but I would have prepared more time focused on Glass’ survival story and less on side plots that add to the long running time. ★★★★

1ST TIMERS
Pan 
– Colourful and magical from start to finish but doesn’t rank against other Neverland-related films. ★★★
Big Sur – Stunning scenery but ultimately this falls flat and is uninspiring considering the subject matter. ★★
Oldboy – Not one for me but Brolin is impressive, certainly earning his action stripes. ★★★
The Great Gatsby – DiCaprio shines but the bold colours and inclusion of modern music doesn’t sit as well as in Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. At 2hrs 23 it’s far too long as well. ★★★
All is Lost – A challenging role (Redford is the only cast member and says, maybe, three words) but Redford pulls it off extremely well, and you find yourself constantly rooting for him. ★★★★
This Boy’s Life – Young DiCaprio shines in this tense drama biopic about a boy’s relationship with his stepfather. De Niro certainly packs a punch too… ★★★★
Laggies – Entertaining but Rockwell is the stand out in this, not lead protagonist Knightley. Knightley’s character is, unfortunately, hugely unlikable. ★★★
The Aviator – Another DiCaprio biopic and another role that he pulls off extremely well; Hughes’ descent into extreme OCD is brilliantly reenacted. ★★★
A Little Chaos – A very sweet period film that has its moments but is, sadly, one that is fairly forgettable. ★★★
The Man Who Fell to Earth – Completely bizarre, far too long but, ultimately, a must-watch for any Bowie film; he excels in the role. ★★★
Walk of Shame – Surprisingly, this provided a few twists and turns I wasn’t expecting, happily resulting in a fair few laugh-out-loud moments. ★★★½
The Martian – Not quite what I was expecting but, potentially, all the more enjoyable because of that. Damon was a fantastic casting decision. ★★★★½
The Stag – Absolutely brilliant Irish comedy that had me laughing and cringing in all the right places. ★★★★½
Reign of Fire – Interesting premise with a top cast but it doesn’t quite reach its potential. I’d potentially be interested in a contemporary rewrite and remake. ★★½
Man Up – Pegg and Bell both give above-average performances, especially Bell with her excellent accent, but this is forgettable. ★★½

REWATCHES
Jurassic World – Several rewatches later and I’m still enjoying this. While it doesn’t have the same magic as the first film, it is a worthy addition to the series. ★★★★
Groundhog Day – Always a pleasure to watch, this is one of my favourite Murray performances; I can’t think of anyone else in the role. ★★★★
Cinderella – A classic Disney that still captures your imagination and leaves you with a smile on your face, especially from the adorable, comical mice. ★★★★★
East is East – Excellent Brit flick that captures life for a mixed race family in the 1970s; practically all the leads and supporting characters give memorable performances. ★★★★½

Total: 20

Since 1st January 2016 

New releases: 1
1st timers: 15
Rewatches: 4
Total: 20

2015: Genre breakdown

In much the same way that you have a favourite drink or Subway sandwich – mine is Veggie Patty with Caesar dressing, if you’re asking – I think a lot of film fans have go-to film genres. As explained previously, mine are fantasy and sci-fi.

This isn’t to say that I never watch a romcom, comedy or drama. With my weekly Tuesday Night Film Club I’ve watched a variety of films that I may not have considered watching otherwise.

With 2015 wrapped up and 165 films watched, I’ve analysed my Letterboxd profile to see what the genre breakdown is.

The results have proved somewhat surprising, especially considering what I thought my favourite genres were.

Action 6%
Adventure 7%
Animated 6%
Comedy 19%
Drama 23%
Fantasy 2%
Horror 1%
Romance 6%
Sci-fi 23%
Western 7%

NB.

  • While many films sit across two or more genres, I’ve used my discretion to allocate those films to just one genre
  • There are, of course,  many other sub-genres (war, disaster, survival etc.) but I’m keeping this post broad
  • Foreign language films have been sorted by genre too.
    E.g. romance, drama or comedy

[Review] And Then There Were None

tv-jpgWhen I was younger, one of my Christmas traditions was to go through the TV guide and see what films were going to be on. There would be the usual suspects, like an animated or live action version of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, but there would also be fairly recent releases that I would circle in biro to make sure that I could claim the TV when they were on.

This year, as in recent years, it wasn’t films that were getting my attention but one-off dramas and special episodes.

The eleventh Christmas special of ‘Doctor Who’ was shown, titled ‘The Husbands of River Song’, and ‘Sherlock’ also returned to our TV screens after a two-year hiatus with ‘The Abominable Bride’.

Sadly, these both bordered on fair to mediocre. Instead, it was a three-part adaptation of Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’ that had me completely enthralled.

“Ten little soldier boys went out to dine,
One choked his little self and then there were nine…”

Before watching this BBC adaptation I knew absolutely nothing about Christie’s most revered work, which was arguably the best position to be in.

As the scene became set, it soon became clear why ‘And Then There Was None’ is the best-selling mystery novel in the world; the disconcerting setting and themes fulfilled the genre’s stereotypes perfectly and effectively.

After receiving invitations to stay at Soldier Island, an uninhabited island off the Devon coast save for one house, a comprehensive mix of society is thrown, rather claustrophobically, together. From a highly revered judge to a children’s governess, it’s doubtful that any of the invitees would have come to meet in their everyday lives.

While enjoying their lavish dinner and waiting for their hosts, the strangely absent Mr and Mrs Owen, it soon becomes clear that on Soldier Island, not everything is as innocent as it appears. With a gramophone accusing each of the 10 guests and staff of murder, the sedate dinner atmosphere quickly goes sinister.

Starring an impressive line-up of TV and film favourites, including Charles Dance, Miranda Richardson and Sam Neill, as the minutes ticked by and the story started unravelling, my attention was consistently held, practically on the edge of my seat as the conclusion began.

From Sarah Phelps’ excellent writing to the spot on casting, the whole production came together very well. Tense from the beginning, the three hours flew by and though I correctly solved the mystery, this didn’t detract from my enjoyment at all.

If you’re a mystery or drama fan, this is certainly one for you. And if you’re a ‘Poldark’ fan too, of course; Aidan Turner adds another genre to his ever-increasing portfolio.

ATTWN

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