VIFF capsule reviews part two: Mr. Turner, The Vancouver Asahi, Clouds of Sils Maria and Maps to the Stars

MrTurnerMr. Turner (UK/France/Germany) — Oct 8 @ 1pm @ Vancouver Playhouse

Mike Leigh is known for his kitchen-sink realism and his improvisational approach to screenwriting: he hires the actors, gets them to know their characters in detail, and then he collaborates with them on the story, or at least on the development of individual scenes. But once in a rare while he decides to tackle an actual historical subject — and the two films he has made in that vein so far both concern artists who lived and worked in the 19th century. [Read more...]

Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (dir. Francis Lawrence, 2013)

The headlines on some of the early reviews of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire have called it the Empire Strikes Back of this series, and it’s not hard to see why. The new film fleshes out the characters introduced by the first film, it delves deeper into its central love triangle, it raises the stakes significantly, and it ends on an abrupt cliffhanger that separates the characters from one another and leaves you wondering what’s really going on (though the revelation at the end of this film is nothing compared to the famous “I am your father” moment from Empire).

I have never read the original novels, so I have only a vague idea of where the story is going, and no idea at all how faithful the films have been to the books. But I found I cared about this film in a way that I don’t recall caring about the original Hunger Games, which came out a year and a half ago. I was more impressed by how the film looked, and by the complicated interactions between our protagonists, which no longer fit quite so neatly into the familiar formula whereby a hero is called, trained, sent on some sort of quest and then returned to his or her home.

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