All this week's cinema releases reviewed

Yahoo UK Movies Features22 March 2012

The Hunger Games – 2.5/5

In short:
Set in Panem, the dystopian reincarnation of North America, ‘The Hunger Games’ depicts the eponymous event that pits 24 randomly-selected contestants from each of the 12 rebellious districts against each other in a no-holds-barred fight to the death: broadcast on live television for the amusement of the masses. District 12 has never had a winner, but when talented archer Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to save her sister from the fight they finally have someone they can believe in.

[Related video: 'The Hunger Games' stars reveal their secret talents]
[Related gallery: The Hunger Games cast on the red carpet]

What we think:

It lacks the violent intensity of spiritual predecessor 'Battle Royale', the grand dystopian vision the marketing hints at, and even the rounded characters and drama promised by the cinematography. What's left is a passable piece of teen entertainment, and that's about it.

The word out there:
The Telegraph: ‘The Hunger Games’ is an essential science fiction film for our times; perhaps the essential science fiction film of our times.
Empire: As thrilling and smart as it is terrifying. There have been a number of big-gun literary series brought to screen over the past decade. This slays them all.
Little White Lies: Forget the hype. Any critic who goes 5-stars on The Hunger Games is guilty of professional negligence.
On The Box: For all its implied savagery and its satire of our obsession with fame and celebrity, it feels curiously flat because it doesn’t follow through on its premises.

Release date: 23 March
Runtime: 142 mins
Rating: 12A

Act of Valour – 2.5/5

In short:
Real life US Navy SEALs star in this action thriller about a team of servicemen despatched to rescue CIA agent Morales (Roselyn Sánchez), who has been rumbled by the man she is surveying - drug smuggler Mikhail 'Christo' Troykovich. But the team of SEALs are soon sucked into a major terrorist threat. A shady Chechen militant/religious extremist known as Abu Shabal seems to have connections to Christo, and some seriously nasty plans for thousands of unwitting US citizens. Now the crack squad of soldiers are pitted against a global network of terrorists and a worryingly tight time frame.

[Related feature: Actors you never knew played themselves]

What we think:
It's like watching a ridiculous video game, with even less realistic characters, but it's still kind of fun.

The word out there:

Total Film: If the politics are simplistic – think ‘Team America’ – the performances (by real, anonymous SEALs) are even more so.
Sky Movies: Although every scramble at sea seems to occur against a perfect sunrise, there's enough gristly chaos in between to uphold the film's much-vaunted seal of authenticity (no pun intended).
WhatCulture: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Call of Duty: The Movie.
ViewLondon: ‘Act of Valour's pacing and action sequences are enjoyable enough to ensure that this remains a watchable shoot-'em-up, even if it falls down elsewhere.

Release date: 23 March
Runtime: 110 mins
Rating: 15

Wild Bill – 4/5

In short:
Bill Hayward (Charlie Creed-Miles) has just been paroled from prison. After eight long years he is keen to rebuild a relationship with his two sons. His youngest is delighted to have his dad back, but Dean (Will Poulter) can't wait for Bill to leave. Dean has been working all hours to provide for his brother, and Bill swanning in and upsetting things is the last thing he wants.  Social Services, on the other hand, want to see a ‘stable family unit’, or they will be forced to take the brothers into care. An uneasy alliance between Dean and his father develops, but this moment of tranquillity is about to be shattered when the local villains target the family to get them involved in the old ways.

What we think:
We weren't expecting this. Dexter Fletcher (in his directorial debut) proves to be a real find behind the lens and the ensemble cast add real depth to a familiar story. One of the most invigorating British films we've seen for a long time.

The word out there:

TimeOut: Much of the film’s strength is down to the cast – Fletcher’s old ‘Press Gang’ colleague Creed-Miles is wonderfully sympathetic in the lead role, though he’s often outshone by ‘Son of Rambow’ star Poulter as the clenched, bitter Dean.
Birmingham Post: Fletcher should be as pleased as punch with his debut efforts. Next time, though, a bit more originality in the script wouldn’t go amiss.
Film4: One of the best British films of the year, from the mind of Dexter Fletcher, who emerges from his presenting/acting days as an exciting new writing/directorial voice.
Digital Spy: It would be easy to pick apart the dramatic clichés and the odd credibility-testing contrivance, but as a whole, ‘Wild Bill’ is well-meant enough for that to matter not-at-all.

Release date: 23 March
Runtime: 98 mins
Rating: 15

The Kid With A Bike - 4/5

In short:
In a care home on the outskirts of a small town, Cyril Catoul (Thomas Doret) is trying to contact his father: but the phone is disconnected. Adamant he'll find his AWOL dad, and the precious bike he still has in his possession, Cyril runs away. On his short trip he encounters kindly hairdresser Samantha (Cécile De France), who helps the agitated boy. Soon they begin to forge a connection, and she agrees to look after him on weekends. But his search for a father figure makes him susceptible to dark influences that could still ruin his already precarious young life, and the lives of unwitting people around him.

What we think:
Festival favourites the Dardenne brothers deliver another brilliant slice of neo-realistic cinema - rich in character detail, social insight, ideas and even, occasionally, genuine warmth.

The word out there:
Empire: In outline it sounds trite... but the Dardennes make it so much more.
Entertainment Weekly: No one charts the wilds of childhood more precisely than the Dardennes.
The Scotsman: Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne... have such engrossing, reckless energy that they can feel more like noir-ish thrillers.
Film4: ‘The Kid With A Bike’ cuts to the humanist heart of a boy's troubled 'rite de passage', without ever resorting to exaggerated emoting or cheap sensationalism.

Release date: 23 March
Runtime: 87 mins
Rating: 12A

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