Saturday, November 30, 2013

The claw! Oooooooh!

Finally saw The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It was even better than the first movie and probably the best adaptation of a young adult novel yet (yeah, I know the competition isn’t exactly stellar). I liked that it was fairly slow-paced, unlike the later Harry Potter movies which tried to cram a ridiculous amount of the books’ plots into too short movies.
Director Francis Lawrence makes this a more visually striking movie than the original, with the increased budget showing in the improved visual effects and costumes. All of the returning cast members once again prove they are perfect for their roles, with Jennifer Lawrence carrying the movie. From the scene where she pays tribute to Rue in District 11 right through to the ending she sells all the big emotional scenes (and there are a lot of them).
The new actors are equally good, with Philip Seymour Hoffman as new gamesmaker Plutarch Heavensbee, Jeffrey Wright as inventor Beetee, Sam Claflin as cocky tribute Finnick Odair and Jena Malone as the sarcastic and violent Johanna Mason being particular standouts. The varying age ranges of the tributes due to the Quarter Quell makes the alliances and interactions between the characters more interesting this time.
I’ve seen the movie compared to The Empire Strikes Back a lot, and it does raise the stakes and take the characters to a deeper, darker place like that movie. It also ends on a cliffhanger that will no doubt be very frustrating for those who haven’t read the books. Unless they mess up the third and fourth movies, this is almost guaranteed to be one of the great movie sagas.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Day of the Doctor

Hard to believe it's been 50 years since Doctor Who first appeared on our screens. Seems like just yesterday. Oh wait, I wasn't born back then. Actually, I didn't become a Whovian until pretty recently. Even as a kid I found the original series a little silly and when it restarted in 2005 I still thought the same thing (living mannequins? come on!). I caught a few episodes after that, but it wasn't until writer Steven Moffat and star Matt Smith took over the show that I became hooked. Series 5 had a wonderful fairytale quality and Amy Pond quickly became my favourite of all the companions. After that I went back and watched all the other "Nu-Who" episodes and found an appreciation for the show and the character I never really had before. I've stuck with the show since then and I think Moffat is probably the best thing to ever happen to the "Whoniverse", despite all the criticism he gets online.
So The Day of the Doctor had a lot to live up to. For the most part, it delivered.
The plot had a credible enough threat to bring three Doctors together (Smith, his predecessor David Tennant and John Hurt as "the War Doctor") and there was plenty of humour. I especially liked Hurt's distaste at the juvenile language of his later incarnations ("timey-wimey?") and it's a shame we probably won't get to see more of him. The chemistry between Smith and Tennant was great and there were some fun unexpected cameos from the Fourth and 13th Doctors. I was even happy to see the "Bad Wolf" version of Rose return, despite not being a huge fan of Billie Piper. All the Doctors appear for the big finale to save Gallifrey. This was a little cheesy, especially when the actors who couldn't or wouldn't return were pasted in, but it still worked.
The special had a real epic feel with us finally getting to see the Time War and I liked the way the Doctor's guilt was alleviated without it being a copout. It's hard to imagine how they'll top this for the Christmas special (where Smith will regenerate into his replacement Peter Capaldi) but it wouldn't be the first time the writers have risen to the challenge. Overall this was a fitting tribute to the past and pointed towards a bold new future for the show.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Loki and Friends

We took the kids to see Thor: The Dark World today. Surprisingly, they stayed quiet and in their seats most of the film, just getting restless towards the end. The film was fun, probably a little better than the first one, which spent too much time on Earth. This one has a more epic, space adventure feel to it and I also liked it better than Iron Man 3.
All the main characters from the first reappear (everyone's favourite crazy scientist, Erik Selvig, gets to streak around Stonehenge) and the new characters include the villainous Malekith (an underused Christopher Eccleston) and his henchman Kurse (as an 80's Marvel fanboy I enjoyed seeing a Secret Wars character on screen). The action and visuals are great (though the 3D is pretty useless) and there's nice humour throughout. But what everybody really cares about is Loki, right? Tom Hiddleston fans won't be disappointed. Loki is just as sly, devious, witty and charming as ever, whether he's in his Hannibal Lecter cell or set loose. He even gets to show a tender side and sacrifice himself bravely to save Thor (or does he?). He raises the film to another level whenever he's on screen.
Marvel fans will enjoy all the nods to the greater cinematic universe, including a surprise cameo from a fellow Avenger and a mid-credit scene that sets up Guardians of the Galaxy. Overall, Phase II is coming along nicely, though I haven't seen as much of Joss Whedon's guiding hand as I'd have expected. Hope they can keep the momentum going until The Avengers: Age of Ultron.