Film Friday #208

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

Following the events of the Quarterquell, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself living underground in District 13 where President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), supported by Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) are keen for her to be the face of their rebellion. Tortured by nightmares and unsure of what has happened to Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Katniss is reluctant. But after a broadcast in which Peeta is being used as President Snow’s (Donald Sutherland) mouthpiece and a visit to the now destroyed District 12, she feels compelled to play her part in bringing the districts together against the Capitol if only to save Peeta. Almost immediately it becomes apparent that Coin will use and manipulate Katniss in whatever way is necessary to achieve her goals and that the differences between the leaders of the Capitol and the leaders of the rebellion are not as great as they want their followers to believe. I went into Mockingjay with very low expectations after reading a lot of lacklustre reviews and I have to admit I was quite pleasantly surprised. Is it an overlong, obvious money grab? Absolutely. Is it boring? Well that depends on what draws your interest to The Hunger Games in the first place. If you’re all about the action then you might be bored. If you’re more interested in the political machinations and the idea of media manipulation of the news and the willingness of leaders to do whatever it takes in the pursuit of power, you’re a lot less likely to be bored. For me it has always been the latter. I can however understand how this step change from the first two films, especially after the political elements were downplayed compared to the novel, might have surprised some of the audience. As always Lawrence gives an outstanding performance, embodying the emotionally battered Katniss and she is ably supported by Moore, Hoffman, Liam Hemsworth as the ever faithful Gale and Sam Clafin as Finnick. Elizabeth Banks is also a bit of a scene stealer providing comic relief as Effie. Subdued compared to the first two but still well worth a watch. 3.5/5

Katniss was more than ready to shoot the shit out of President Snow

Katniss was more than ready to shoot the shit out of President Snow

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

This mockumentary looks at the lives of four vampires who share a flat in Wellington in the lead up to the annual Unholy Masquerade. Viago (Taika Waititi) is an eighteenth century dandy who is always telling everyone off for not washing the dishes, Vladislav (Jermaine Clement) grew up in the Middle Ages had has some interesting ideas about women and torture, Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) is only 183 years old and tends to be a bit wild and Petyr (Ben Fransham), who is over 8,000 years old isn’t very good at using his words and is best left out of the flat meetings. When Deacon’s familiar, Jackie (Jackie van Beek) invites her ex-boyfriend, Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) round to the vamps’ house for dinner, Petyr turns him and suddenly the four have a new friend for the first time in years. As Nick wrestles with what his new life is going to be like, the other four are dragged kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century whether they like it or not. This quirky Kiwi comedy is the perfect antidote to the kind of Twilight-esque vampires we’ve been dealing with onscreen and its look into the practicalities of daily vampire life is absolutely hilarious. Waititi is brilliant as the dorky Viago as is Clement as the worryingly pervy, Vladislav but more often than not it’s Stuart Rutherford as Nick’s best friend, Stu who steals the scene despite the fact that he barely says anything. If you like your comedy a bit off the wall I would highly recommend taking a peek into the shadows, you won’t be disappointed. 4/5

Deacon;s erotic dance made Edward Cullen look like an amateur

Deacon’s erotic dance made Edward Cullen look like an amateur

The Drop (2014)

Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) tends the bar at Cousin Marv’s, which was once owned by his cousin Marv (James Gandolfini) but is now owned by a Chechen gang who took over Marv’s patch. On occasion Cousin Marv’s acts as a “drop bar” where all the money from all the dodgy dealings in Brooklyn is held over night. Bob is a man of few words who keeps to himself, adamant that he wants to live a good quiet life away from what seems like a somewhat shady past. But when Cousin Marv’s is robbed and Bob finds an abused puppy in a trashcan a series of events unfolds that could shatter his peace permanently.  I definitely found the premise of The Drop intriguing and I really enjoyed its slow burn. Once again Tom Hardy makes his character utterly believable and compelling and his relationship not only with the puppy but with the woman whose trashcan he finds it in (Noomi Rapace) are really touching. Gandolfini is also excellent in his final role playing a man tortured by his losing what gave him his identity and desperate to regain his pride. All of this said, if you’re going to go for a slow burn you’ve got to have a good payoff and for me The Drop ended with a whimper rather than a bang and at the end although I enjoyed it I kind of wondered what the whole point actually was. Throughout the film it seemed like there was going to be some kind of message or conclusion and then there just kind of wasn’t… A good watch but it feels like there could have been so much more. 3/5

Warning: This film will make you want a puppy

Warning: This film will make you want a puppy (and Tom Hardy)

Monsters, Inc. (2001)

James P. “Sulley” Sullivan (John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) are two monsters working as a scaring team for Monsters, Inc generating power for the city of Monstropolis by collecting the screams of terrified children. The irony is that the monsters are just as a frightened of the children, believing them to be toxic, so when Sulley accidentally lets a human child into Monstropolis his life is turned upside down. Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m not a great fan of Disney or Pixar but Monsters. Inc is one of my very few total exceptions. The premise of going behind the scenes of the almost universal childhood fear of “monsters under the bed/in the closet” is genius and even just seeing all the different kinds of monsters going about their daily business makes this worth watching. The relationship between lifelong friends Sulley and Mike is great fun and both characters are hilarious.  it also helps that “Boo”, as Sulley nicknames the little invader, is absolutely adorable and her barely comprehensible prattle is so sweet. An absolute classic that stands the test of time. 5/5


Boo’s new “kitty” was a going to give the mailman a run for his money


  1. Monsters Inc. is my happy-making film. 🙂
    And in your header I see Hammersmith which is where I was born.

    1. Abbi

      It’s definitely a great cheering up film. I have a love affair with London so I wanted to show my city in the header.

  2. Great reviews! I enjoyed Mockingjay, was never bored but I also felt it was all a bit flat. Josh Hutcherson was the standout for me.

    1. Abbi

      He was pretty impressive. I am interested to see how they’ll use him in the next film.

  3. I agree with your Mockingjay review. It was a bit anemic in the excitement category. Even the political machinations were all about shooting promo videos. zzzzzz Jennifer Lawrence redeemed this.

    1. Abbi

      She is always good value.

  4. Glad you liked Mockinjay! I think I probably enjoyed it more than the first HG, but I still haven’t decided whether it’s as good as Catching Fire or not.

    Ooo, you liked Monsters, Inc! I loved it too. You should check out Monsters University sometime . . .

    1. Abbi

      I loved Monsters University although it wasn’t quite as good as Monsters Inc.

      1. I think Monsters Inc is where it all started – it’s certainly more original, of course. I kind of liked University more, but it wouldn’t have existed without Monsters Inc. Go figure.

  5. I am so looking forward to The Drop, just a pity to see it is not as good as it could have been…

    1. Abbi

      It’s worth watching for Tom Hardy cuddling what might be the cutest puppy EVER. Plus I wouldn’t say it was bad, it’s just that it fails to deliver on what could have been something really impressive.

      1. Hmmmm… my biggest debate concerning it is watching it first or reading the book…

  6. Monsters Inc!!!!! 🙂 I’m SO pissed off to have missed out on What We Do In The Shadows. The way my local cinemas totally ignore certain films is really frustrating. :-/

    1. Abbi

      It showed here for literally a week!

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