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36 MOCKINGJAY (US, 2014)
Dir: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman...


The revolution has started, and Katniss is asked to become the mockingjay that represents it.

This time, it was easy to tell that every effort was made to stretch the story in such a way that it would turn the last chapter into two movies instead of one, and that's even though I had not read any of the books yet.
Not much happens really, and since most of the action happens underground, I was regularly bored. Moreover, in this installement, the franchise was mostly robbed of its best actor and most interesting character in my opinion, Peeta.
Having said that, the theme of media propaganda was cleverly extended to the revolutionary setting, something I did not necessarily expect from a teen franchise. So that part was a good surprise.


Movie 35: Interstellar

Dir: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Matt Damon...


In a post-apocalyptic future, a pilot and his crew are sent to a new galaxy in the hope of finding a planet where humanity can live.

You might call Interstellar an accessible and watchable 2001: A Space Odyssey.
I thought it was, overall, an excellent scifi picture. The story is gripping, but also takes the time to develop interesting character dynamics. I thought McConaughey's performance was outstanding, especially in regard to the moving relationship he has with his daughter.
Nolan did not come up with some ridiculous depictions of alien life, and the ending was satisfying; two aspects that set his movie above many others of the same genre (the frustrating Prometheus comes to mind).
I also really enjoyed the (somewhat controversial) soundtrack the talented Hans Zimmer produced.
My only criticism is that some of that scientific jargon gets overly confusing at times for somewhat like me, who is unable to assess its remote validity. Although, I understand that the story itself demanded some scientific explanations, whether fictional or not.


Movie 34: '71

34 '71 (UK, 2014)
Dir: Yann Demange
Cast: Jack O'Connell, Sean Harris, David Wilmot...


During the troubles, a young British soldier is accidentally seperated from the rest of his unit, and is left to survive on hiw own in the streets of Belfast.

'71 is a brutal rendition of the troubles, through the eyes of an innocent soldier who wishes he had nothing to do with the bloodshed. It's an absolutely flawless film, gut wrenching and unbearably suspenseful. Both the acting and the direction are worthy of awards.
I had the opportunity to see it right before a weekend trip to Belfast, and it made it all the more meaningful.
One of the highlights of the year, for sure.


Movie 33: Gone Girl

33 GONE GIRL (US, 2014)
Dir: David Fincher
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Carrie Coon...


Amy is missing, and an increasing amount of people, including the police, start thinking her husband has murdered her.

I read the novel last year, and while I enjoyed it, I'd found it quite overrated and not as deep as it was trying to be. In the hands of the great David Fincher however, Gone Girl truly stands out among thrillers for the complexity of its storyline.
Even though I already knew the entire story, I found its adaptation absolutely gripping thanks to its fantastic pacing and editing. The acting was superb, and I expect Rosamund Pike's performance will be nominated for an Oscar.

I don't say this very often, but don't bother with the book, go see the movie instead.


Movie 32: A Most Wanted Man

Dir: Anton Corbijn
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Grigoriy Dobrygin


A German spy agent believes and seeks to prove that an influential member of the Muslim community is actually funding terrorism

I really enoyed The American, and even more so Control, which is why I'm surprised Anton Corbijn could have directed such a terrible film.
Rachel McAdams' (who on top of being a mediocre actress has a really bad fake German accent) character makes NO sense at all, and that's pretty much what brings down the entire picture. For some reason, she decides that a man she knows nothing about is completely innocent, and she is willing to risk everything to help him. Why? Because she's a lawyer (and therefore believes in justice?), and because later on she becomes sort of sexually attracted to the man. And that's all it took. There's a scene in which the two have an argument, and the metaphorical barrier between them is symbolized by a see-through curtain. That's right. A see-through curtain.

I'm so sad this is Philip Seymour Hoffman's last lead performance. I wish it were a better movie.


Movie 31: The Fault in our Stars

Dir: Josh Boone
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern...


A love story between two kids who have and have had cancer.

It was interesting to finally get to know what the hype was all about, as I've never read the original novel.
As much as I'm a romantic at heart, this love story was simply too cheesy for me, the whole cigarette metaphore being particularly cringeworthy.
While the acting seems to be as good as possible considering the material given, Hazel and Augustus have rather generic personalities. Only cancer makes them stand out as a couple.
Of course, the movie manages to be emotionally charged, but how could it fail to be with a subject matter like cancer?

I also felt that the scene in which they share their first kiss was slitghly inappropriate considering the location. I wasn't exactly shocked, but certainly annoyed.


Book 27: Agnes Grey

27 AGNES GREY Anne Bronte (England,1847)

57 agnes

Following financial misfortunes, the young Agnes Grey decides to become a governess, but she quickly becomes persecuted by the children and parents of the households that give her a position.

Years after reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which I disliked, I decided to give Anne another go. Now I can say that her work is too moralizing for my tastes. Her heroines are always overly preachy, and I get tired of them really quickly.
Anne Bronte had worked as a governess as well, and this novel is believed to be mostly autobiographical. As a result, what makes the book worth reading is the depiction of the way governesses were treated by their employers. However, Anne is no match for her sisters.


Book 26: Consider the Lobster

26 CONSIDER THE LOBSTER David Foster Wallace (US, 2005)


David Foster Wallace's collection of essays includes reflections on a diversity of topics such as pornography, John McCain's presidential campaign, and the ethics of cooking lobsters.

A few years ago, I read an essay taken from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again for a creative writing class, and absolutely loved it. This might be why Consider the Lobster is a bit of a disappointment.
There's no denying that Wallace has a sharp sense of humor, and that his writing style is recognizable at first glance. But it's his voice that I didn't like as much as I wanted to, and while liking or not a main character in a novel is often irrelevant when judging its quality, the voice of a personal essay needs to be likeable. There are a few things that I didn't like about Wallace, and that might have spoiled some of the pleasure I took in his writing style. I also felt that some of his essays were dragging on, and would've been better shorter.
Maybe this wasn't the right book for me, and I intend to try his work again to see if I change my mind.


Book 25: Therese Desqueyroux

25 THERESE DESQUEYROUX Francois Mauriac (France, 1927)


Everyone knows Therese Desqueyroux of attempted murder, including the very husband she tried to kill, but in order to save the family's reputation, he refuses to accuse her during the trial.

What makes this novel interesting, is that even though we know Therese to be guilty, it is impossible to not feel sorry for her. Most of the novel consists of her recounting the tale of her life and the dull bourgeois life that gradually leads her to commit the crime. Therese is above all a victim of circumstance whose personality is ultimately crushed by her family and society.


Book 24: Young Hearts Crying

24 YOUNG HEARTS CRYING Richard Yates (US, 1984)


Michael Davenport is a poet who has achieved only minor success in his early career, which leaves him bitter, frustrated, and on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

At first, this might sound like another story about a struggling artist, but as usual, Yates' merciless insights rise it above the rest.

Young Hearts Crying, just like his other novels, is about failed careers and marriages. But this one was written later in his life, and fairly closely follows the author's biography and his dealings with a serious mental illness (mostly induced by alcohol). This is a very thorough novel, as it follows the main characters' lives from their young adult years to their bitter middle age; four hundred pages is on average fairly long for Yates.
Richard Yates never ceases to impress me. His characters' epiphanies always ring so heartbreakingly true, that it is impossible not to hold him as one of the greatest writers of his generation and beyond.