The Hunger Games: Catching Fire / Thor: The Dark World

120px-Film-stripA night for sequels, it seems. Annoyingly, we had to journey between cinemas as the latter was only on in evil 3D at our nearest picture house.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

“Remember who the real enemy is.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Winners of the last Hunger Games get pulled into the new ones

See it if you like: the first film and the books

Not one I was keen on seeing as I thought the books were a little dull, and the first film – which I’ve seen bits of here and there – looked equally weak. My preconceptions were borne out by a movie that stayed close to the source material. In some cases this would be a good thing, but it’s not when you’re not a fan of the original.

It moved along nicely enough, but I found the whole thing a little mawkish and several of the characters annoyed me more than anything else. A new director couldn’t save it and the ludicrously over-the-top makeup and clothing worn by the Capital citizens really just looks stupid. By all means show off the difference between the have and have-nots, but there’s a line and this goes way past it.

Obviously there will be a sequel, but at least that’ll be the end of it. If you want to find out more about the film them watch the trailer. It covers virtually every major piece of plot and line of dialogue up until the contestants enter the arena just over halfway through.

Thor: The Dark World

“There is nothing more reassuring than knowing that the world is crazier than you are.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Some bad guys are after some bad stuff that the Asgardians are looking after so they can rule the universe

See if it you like: Big, silly superhero films

Another film I wasn’t that fussed about as a) I’m not a big Thor fan and b) I didn’t think the first film was very good. Short version – this is better than the last one.

Thing is, it’s not that much better. It’s less overblown, faster-paced and more quotable. There are more moments of humour and the effects are, undoubtedly, superb. But it just didn’t grab me the way the Iron Man series did. In fairness, I was exhausted by the time we sat down to see this showing which won’t have helped, but I just felt it ran too long.

There’s not a bad story there and it really sets itself up for a sequel (avoiding spoilers prevents me from saying why), but that’s no surprise. As ever, there are a couple of extra bits in the credits – both mid-way and right at the very end.

Chris Hemsworth has his top off a couple of times and I think that was enough to make my Mrs happy.

Beyond that, Thor 2 doesn’t really do anything to set itself out amongst the current glut of superhero films. it’s not bad, but it’s just not super.

X-Men: First Class / The Hangover Part II

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsDue to a slow-down in film releases (I guess there’s a lull before the summer storm), we manage to play catch-up and catch the top two releases of the moment this Friday night. As a bonus, that bloody Rio Orange advert has finally been withdrawn and replaced with a new one. Which I am now heartily sick of having seen it twice.

X-Men: First Class

“Peace was never an option.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: An “origins” tale for the X-Men, likely to be ripped apart by comics geeks for not being a word perfect adaptation of some issue of the comic from 1963.

See it if you like: superhero films with a story as well as decent action sequences.

I gather this is the first of a new trilogy of X-Men films and it’s both a sensible and enjoyable way to kick it off. Sensible in that it tells the tale of the formation of the X-Men, the first mutants being found, trained and unleashed on the world. Enjoyable in that it has a decent story as well as some well-crafted set pieces.

A fault I’ve found with too many superhero films recently is they’ve aimed for the big spectacle and let little details like plot, character development and dialogue fall by the wayside. I didn’t enjoy Thor for this reason and I confess I have my concerns about Green Lantern. I hope it proves me wrong. First Class doesn’t fall into these traps and instead manages to wrap a decent enough story with enough pizazz to keep the eye-candy addicts happy.

Oh, and there are also plenty of fit women in typically revealing superhero outfits. Jennifer Lawrence (Raven / Mystique) just made it onto my my “oh, man, I wish” list. Blue make-up or human form, I don’t care. Woof.

Throughout the film there are several nods to the events to come, while setting things into historical context. True events are moulded to fit the mutant storyline such as the Cuban missile crisis being caused by mutants somewhat less friendly than Professor Xavier‘s (James McAvoy) motley brigade. Said group are led by Kevin Bacon‘s Sebastian Shaw, a character who’s role is effectively taken by Magneto later on in X-history.

This is the best of the X-men films without a doubt. I’d rank it up there with the better superhero films as well. A decent cast, excellent effects but at heart a good story which focuses on the characters. How things will pan out in the next films now that the characters are established is anyone’s guess, but in the meantime this is well worth seeing.

The Hangover: Part II

“What is wrong with you three?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Seen The Hangover? It’s that. In Thailand.

See it if you like: watching a remake of an enjoyable film from only two years ago.

I’m sorely tempted to just refer you to my review of The Hangover and tell you to read it with sunglasses on and the aircon off. That’s pretty much what the scriptwriters have done here.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still funny. It’s still outrageous, tasteless and over the top. But it’s lost that shock factor that made the first one so good. It also helps if – like the first instalment – you avoid the trailers before watching.

It’s another wedding, this time in Thailand. The same bunch are going. They decide to have a quiet drink two nights before the wedding… and wake up unable to remember what they did or where they went the night before. Oh, and one of them is missing. See what I mean? The only difference is the setting.

In its defence, had I seen this without seeing the first one I’d have rated it far higher. It’s still funny, it still makes you cringe – it’s just too much like its predecessor and too soon afterwards. I’m picky about my tasteless, monkey-porn, chicks-with-dicks filled comedy.

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