Best films of 2013: Haiku reviews

Following my first stab last year at reviewing my favourite films of the year in Haiku form, I decided to give it another go. Remember, these little Japanese poems are three lines made up of five syllables, then seven, then five.sandra-bullocks-gravity-interview

Gravity
Explosion in space
Debris flying everywhere
The will to survive

Captain Philips
Somali hijack
Capture Captain in lifeboat
Tense tale on high seas

Rush
Two F1 driversworlds-end-new-trailer
Battle it out for title
A wild, thrilling ride

The World’s End
Pubs, pints and old friends
Scrapping with weird blue aliens
Marmalade sandwich

The Place Beyond The Pines
Stunt rider has kid
Teams up with guy to rob banksdjango and candie
Fathers, sons, life, death

Cloud Atlas
Past, present, future
Kind act that ripples through time
A grand, epic tale

Django Unchained
Bounty hunter finds
slave, recruits him then hunts down
plantation ownerJosh Hutcherson and Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games Catching Fire, a review

Zero Dark Thirty
Hunt for Bin Laden
Led by obsessive lady
Finds him then kills him

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Victor of games
Girl on fire made to play nice
Starts revolution

So there we go. My attempt at Japanese poetry for this year, or at least until the mood takes me again. Hope you enjoy them. See if you can come up with your own for your favourite films of the year, it’s quite fun.

Katniss and a mockingjay: the revolution will be televised

Hunger-games-catching-fire-lawrence_katniss‘Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire.’ The same could be said of Jennifer Lawrence these days. Following her award winning performance last year, she’s got some exciting things lined up to hit the screen soon. American Hustle, reuniting her with Silver Linings Playbook director David O. Russell, is out in December which, from the trailer, looks to be a right sexy treat. It’s covered in my recent trailer blog, along with some other ones worth a look. She’s also part of the jaw-dropping cast of X-Men: Days of Future Past, comfortably slotting herself into another juggernaut of a franchise.

Then there’s The Hunger Games. One thing that struck me about the middle slot of this trilogy is just how bleak and desolate it feels. I suppose, given the three act structure of a film (setup, conflict, resolution) and extrapolating that over a three film arc (or four film arc, as the conclusion will be a two-parter), Josh Hutcherson and Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games Catching Fire, a reviewthe second one will always be rife with conflict and see the antagonist flex his or her muscles to gain the upper hand. Think Empire Strikes Back and Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

On that note, and given the fact most of the audience will have seen the first one, this feel films tougher and more emotionally affecting than the first. Indeed, many of the characters have matured and grown wise to what life is like under this oppressive regime; off and on love interest Peeta and Katniss’s sister Primrose are typical examples. The latter calmly taking a needle from her mother’s shaking hands to sedate someone after a savage beating.

And talking of beatings, this film has them aplenty (mostly administered by soldiers looking like a cross between storm troopers and extras from a Daft Punk video).Hunger Games Catching Fire5-20131105-172 Austrian director Francis Lawrence (Constantine, I am Legend, Water for Elephants) doesn’t let up; there’s precious little in the way of light moments to lift the mood. At times I questioned the 12A certificate (there were a lot of kids in the audience at my screening). However there was minimal cause for concern, in the event of a violent act the director would invariably cut away at the last moment, something no doubt advised by the studio to make the broader kid-friendly certificate. A tactic to save kids’ sensibilities perhaps, but still psychologically affects us adults, as we can fill in the gaps.

This is only really an observation though. Lawrence has taken the reins of this franchise in able fashion, proving he can handle action, drama and quieter character moments equally well. He’s also avoided directorial flair for the most part, letting the cast grow in their roles. jennifer-Lawrence-on-fire-in-New-Hunger-Games-Catching-Fire-Trailer-3As you’d expect, the focus is by and large firmly kept on Lawrence’s Katniss – we see everything from her point of view. And rightly so, she’s not only the catalyst and linchpin for the entire story, but also a tough female protagonist, something of which we’ve not seen on the big screen in a long time.

Hence perhaps why Jennifer Lawrence is fast becoming a favourite of tinseltown. In years past Hollywood has taken Oscar winners and tried to turn them into action/superheroes and failed (Hallie Berry, Catwoman; Charlize Theron, Aeon Flux; hell even Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider to an extent), perhaps lack of success was down to poor script, a weak director, sub-standard supporting cast… Who knows.

ID_D37_14785.dngNow, however, it feels right. Lawrence feels right. Maybe the industry has just finally got its act together. I’ve been a fan of hers since Winter’s Bone and, for me, she’s not put a foot wrong (please Jennifer, stay away from run-of-the-mill rom-coms!). And with Francis Lawrence directing the concluding two-parter of this tale, it looks to be in most competent hands. President Snow, watch your back… And your front. In fact, just watch out. Katniss is coming, she’s mad as hell and she just won’t take it anymore.

Three Amigos: Rise of the Mexican Directors

guillermo del toro

Ok, for this piece I’d like to discuss my love of Mexico’s finest Directors. In terms of what got me fired up to write this, bear with me whilst I set the scene.

The other night I was watching an old episode of the BBC miniseries, Luther, starring Idris Elba (check out a clip here, worth looking up if you’ve not seen it), and it got me thinking about the film Elba is currently working on, Guillermo del Toro’s latest, Pacific Rim.

guillermo del toroNow I’m intrigued. I’m a massive del Toro fan and it’s a shame he couldn’t deliver his version of The Hobbit. I am sure Peter Jackson’s take will be epic, but I bet Guillermo’s would have been quite something.

The reason I’m a fan of del Toro is simple, his filmography: Pan’s Labyrinth, Blade II, Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army. 

Like many others, I love the worlds he creates. His monsters are equally terrifying and beautiful. I suppose it helps that he spent 10 years as a special effects make-up designer before breaking into directing.

For example… Let’s take a moment to savour the scene where Liz bargains for Hellboy’s life with the Angel of Death…

Guillermo has often been described as creating fairy tales for grown ups. This is an apt description as Pan’s Labyrinth is not for the faint hearted. Yet in some ways, the worst monsters in his films are human: the fascist Captain in Pan’s Labyrinth, Rasputin in Hellboy etc.

And if we’re talking dark, it’s not just Guillermo that has a fascination with the macabre, his directorial partners in crime – Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro G. Inarritu – also follow a similar path, albeit sticking more to drama than fantasy.

Mexico’s finest
Let’s start with Alfonso Cauron. His standout for me, was Children of Men; gritty, grimy, set in a bleak future and critically well received. He was a bit of a leftfield choice to direct the third Harry Potter film, Prisoner of Azkaban. However, his style and tone fit the subject matter surprisingly effectively. Again, it was well received and largely seen as the bleakest, darkest instalment in the franchise. No bad thing at all.

alfonso cuaron
Then there’s Alejandro G. Inarritu. He’s had a stack of nominations for his filmography to date, most of which are linked by the theme of death: Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel and Biutiful.

Team players
All three directors tend to help each other out. Both Guillermo and Alfonso helped produce Inarritu’s Biutiful. Cuaron helped produce Pan’s Labyrinth and Inarritu edited it. You could say that, through this tag team effort, the film achieved greater heights than del Toro alone could have managed.

However, I think it’s just a case of three, talented individuals working together to create a masterpiece. This sort of collaboration hasn’t adversely affected their solo careers, as all have been successful in their own right. Indeed it’s benefitted them.

And whilst they all have their own style, there are themes and influences that link them together, like a happy family: life, death, darkness, light, magic, and fantasy. Pretty much the voiceover for the Pan’s Labyrinth trailer.

katnissThe future for the amigos?
Well, del Toro has Pacific Rim, plus rumours of Hellboy 3, which would be an exciting prospect. Inarritu has The Revenant, with DiCaprio and Sean Penn. Cauron has Gravity, a space film starring George Clooney.

Most interestingly though, Cauron is in the running to possibly direct the second instalment of the Hunger Games franchise (I think it’s safe to call it a franchise already right?). Entitled Catching Fire, it’s set to release November 2013.

So all in all, the Three Amigos are doing fine, with some exciting stuff in the pipeline. In celebration of this, let’s finish on a lighter note. Here’s the original Three Amigos in action with My Little Buttercup. Classic comedy.