Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Case for Nightcrawling

Jake Gyllenhaal plays creepy disturbingly well.  When he gets thin, his big eyes look hollow, his wide mouth looks sinister, his intense stare looks… well, intense.  And all of these physical attributes, along side his robotic like delivery and focussed attention means he plays the amoral and psychotic Lou Bloom, a Nightcrawler, perfectly.

Lou is a petty thief who is incredibly smart but lacks a lot of social skills.  Then he discovers the world of L.A. crime journalism, chasing after accidents and murders with his video camera so he can sell his footage to the competitive local news networks.  It is grisly and almost inhuman, but the work can be lucrative, and so with his lack of boundaries and ethics, and with the assistance of a local morning news producer (a deliberately fading beauty in the gorgeous Rene Russo), he quickly becomes the man with the best gory crime footage in town. 

You never feel bad for Lou, which is great considering how repugnant what he is and what he does is shown to be.  But he is completely compelling, thanks to Gyllenhaal’s skill and a story which shows the world through his manic eyes.  

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but it’s a descent into depravity and manipulation and it is really good. 

It is a shame then that there were literally only about 5 of us in the main cinema of the Penthouse to enjoy it.  It was a nice day, and I know it was showing at some other screens in town, but really, how can the Paramount survive with attendance like that?  Fingers crossed it keeps its head above water.

But enough of that.

Verdict:  Nightcrawler was an intense and gripping thriller and totally worth watching.  It’s a pity it seems to have passed most cinemagoers by.  4 video cameras out of 5.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Case for Partly Sating the Hunger

Once again, another third book in a trilogy has been broken into two (cleft in twain?) to stretch out the movie revenue in a successful franchise.  But this time, with the Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1, it may actually work.

Why?  Well, for fans of the books, the finale is seen as the weakest in the link.  I tend to think its because the final book tells the story of revolution in Panem, and as the books are told first person from Katniss’s point of view, its hard to really experience all the disparate events that this might entail.

The movie though is not tied down to a first person point of view.  The film can go and see President Snow (the grippingly evil Donald Sutherland, just awesome) and what vile machinations he is up to; it can follow handsome Edward/Gael (Liam Hemsworth) as he does brave and manly things without needing to hang on to Katniss’s (the always incredible Jennifer Lawrence – can she be more perfect?) leather pants; it can show Jacob/Peter (Josh Hutchison) and his story in the Capitol; and it can show Julianne Moore and Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Elizabeth Banks and all the other actors and their characters and really give us that overall picture of how things are changing.

That it doesn’t though is what makes the film a bit slow and feel very much like a placeholder.  Watching Lawrence is never a chore, but her change from Victor to Rebel Inspiration is slow and a bit tedious.  Without the Hunger Games making Katniss act the heroine, the film shows that she is less a force for good but more a canvas on which others put their hopes and dreams, with the occasional profound act to get you on her side.

That is not to say the story is bad.  The bigger world is painted (even if it doesn’t always make a huge amount of sense to me) and the rebellion spreads, including an interesting “bomb the dam” scene that had me bamboozled as to how anyone was able to successfully place bombs and who would have actually survived afterwards.  At any rate, the actors (if not the story) are enough to propel you through to the end, where the inevitable cliff hanger gets your ready for part two.  A year away.  Huh.

Verdict: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1 is a long title on a longish film that throws a little bit of action and character development in amongst a whole lot of padding.  While it is an okay film, here is hoping Part 2 really lifts the Game.  May the odds be ever in its favour.  3 out of 5 explosive arrows.