jennifer lawrence

X-Men: Days of Future Past – A Review


x men days of future past1

A few weeks back I watched X-Men: First Class, mostly in preparation for seeing Days of Future Past.

Though I quite enjoyed X-Men and X2, The Last Stand was pretty awful (“I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!”), and X-Men Oranges: Tangerine Origins: Wolverine was probably worse. I haven’t seen The Wolverine, but since I’m not a raging Japanophile (no offence to any raging Japanophiles reading this) it probably wouldn’t have set my world alight.

Marvel’s cinematic universe has raised the bar, and whilst I wasn’t blown away by First Class it certainly had the ongoing potential to do some exciting prequel work. So bringing it all back to not only the original film cast but putting it into the future is a little on the brave side.

Read on…

American Hustle – A Review


american hustle

This was a train which, honestly, I thought I’d missed. Ash and I were going to see American Horror Story American Hustle a good few weeks ago, but for some reason we never quite made it. But since it was the only one of the four main Oscar films of the year which we hadn’t managed to get along to (the others being The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years a Slave and Gravity).

So with no small sense of duty, we headed out through the rainy dark to Southend Odeon’s last showing of it, following a beacon of 70s nostalgia through to a promised land of acting and entertainment brilliance.

Perhaps.

Read on…

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – A Review


catching fire

Last year, I enjoyed The Hunger Games. Not a terribly controversial statement, I think a few people quite liked it. Part of my positivity stems, I am sure, from the fact that I went in expecting Twilight with a post-apocalyptic desktop theme.

In actuality, The Hunger Games was much more intelligent than that. It even flirted with being out and out science-fiction.

I did have criticisms. It was far too sanitised — even in a YA film, you don’t need to be patronising — and there was a colossal mismatch in the complexity of the various key relationships. As I left the cinema, I commented that I would have made it a standalone film, and ended on a montage of revolution-esque explosions.

So even suffering from series-fatigue as I was at the time, Catching Fire finds itself with an uphill struggle.

Read on….

House at the End of the Street – A Review


House at the End of the Street [2012]

Do you remember the 90s? A seemingly endless army of boybands, this newfangled internet thing starting to emerge, and there are a whole raft of teen-slasher films masquerading as horror filmsand running the box office.

Well, on the evidence of House at the End of the Street (which, admittedly, is pretty flimsy evidence) the nineties are back.

House at the End of the Street follows Elissa (Jenifer Lawrence, of The Hunger Games fame) and her divorced mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shune) as they move into a new house in the middle of the woods. Except the house next door was four years ago the scene of a young girl murdering her parents and then disappearing. Now only Ryan (Max Thieriot), the surviving son, lives there, a quiet type to whom Elissa is drawn.

As a film, it starts off well. Whilst I’d rather films didn’t resort to the introductory preview and then “Four years later“, it worked alright here, and as an actress Jennifer Lawrence brings a believable aspect to the performance. Thieriot, too, gives  an incredibly sympathetic performance. And the set up, both atmospheric and tense, builds the audience up for an exciting conclusion.

But the problem is that it never comes.

The climax and the resolution just aren’t satisfying. It twists, it writhes, it tries to be original, but it never seems to quite manage it. From the point where the nice, friendly police officer — who is clearly going to die later on — I felt I knew exactly how it was going to play out. And I was right, which is a little disappointing.

But where a little disappointing turns into ruin the film is its attitude. House at the End of the Street clearly thinks a lot of itself. It thinks it’s very witty and very smart, even down to dropping the The off its title, and it thinks that its twists are very shocking. But they aren’t. Not to anyone who has watched a few of those 90s teen-slasher films.

The beginning was good. It set a very good scene, and if it had dared to try something new and tread some new ground, it could have been a very good addition to the horror pantheon in spite of its 90s-homage feel. But it follows the Scream rules without any of the  tongue-in-cheek self-awareness which made Scream work. And when a new Scream trilogy has started, working off updated rules, and is still failing, you know this has to be onto a loser.

The one neat twist it managed — which I won’t give away— was spoilt by the very last scene, which felt the silly need to overexplain the whole thing. It was clearly worried that previous hints had been too subtle and would be missed by a lot of the audience, but that’s surely the point. Such gems are easter eggs for the few paying proper attention and joining the dots. Tacking an explanation on the end is like someone doing the puzzle for you.

So in the end House at the End of the Street was disappointing because it followed too many genre conventions exactly. And the conventions are so old, so well-trod, that they just aren’t enough any more. Had it been released in the heady days of Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and the rest it might have been a hit. But today? I’m afraid we’ve all moved on, and this is just a forgetable backwards-looking dalliance.