It’s days of whine and poses as Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen trudges along to the prolonged conclusion of Francis Lawrence’s excruciating The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (D+). For a heroine who came on the scene so strong in the original film, it really was a long slog through three more movies to drain the character of any recognizable character whatsoever. After treading water and biding time for more than an hour, the film introduces an oil spill sequence and a slime-zombie battle to rattle the narrative out of complete somnolence. The plot to assassinate President Snow (Donald Sutherland) meanders and fizzles; the inexplicable Peeta versus Gale fauxmance wobbles into utter nonsense and the whole enterprise just teeters to the finale. Aimless in direction, bleak in set design and imagination and largely existent to squeeze more money out of the franchise, this sequel is notable for career-low wooden performances from Oscar winners Lawrence, Julianne Moore and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. For completists only, this part four is a complete bore.
Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca (A-) is a cautionary sci-fi thriller about two men played by Ethan Hawke and Jude Law in a future world in which one’s aspirations are dictated by genetic makeup. Hawke’s character has defects that will hold him back from his dream of space travel, and ultimately he devises a way to escape his overly engineered future. Uma Thurman is exceptional as his love interest. All actors are strong in this thought-provoking piece, including Ernest Borgnine in a small role. Jan Roelf’s production design, Michael Nyman’s score and Colleen Atwood’s costumes are all central to the gorgeous look and feel of this magnificent film.
The eager but naïve FBI agent played by Jodie Foster and the imprisoned cannibal played by Anthony Hopkins are the serial killer tracking duo for the ages in Jonathan Demme’s riveting thriller The Silence of the Lambs (A+). Exploring the deepest reaches of the human psyche with crackling dialogue, impeccable acting and edge-of-your-seat thrills, this is a master class of trying to figure out motivations before a killer or even a fellow hunter makes the next move. Demme intentionally shoots Foster’s character in a way that juxtaposes her as different in world of male-dominated law enforcement officials and female victims, allowing her to hold steady as an amazing protagonist even as vicious villains try to get in her head. Hopkins’ role as Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter is one of the great onscreen roles and fascinating in his every sequence.