Neil Fox on film: The Hunger Games, Wild Bill, Act Of Valour

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THE HUNGER GAMES

There’s a gap in the world – a large gap of young fiction adaptations with fantasy and science fiction edges.

It’s a gap caused by the end of the Harry Potter franchise and the imminent death throes of the Twilight saga.

Everyone is scrambling round looking at how to fill it, and with what.

John Carter, despite being enjoyable, looks unlikely to do so, mainly because the Disney PR machine is woefully inadequate, so it seems that it’s down to this adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ bleak series of novels.

To reduce it to a quick comparison it’s The Running Man for Beliebers, but that is to diminish what is actually a really gripping, enjoyable and rewarding piece of mainstream entertainment.

Directed by Gary Ross (Pleasantville), there is a strong emphasis on ensuring the performances resonate and it’s exceptionally well cast.

Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone, X-Men: First Class) takes on the central role of a girl who takes the place of her sister in the most dangerous circumstance.

The Hunger Games are government-delivered entertainment where a boy and a girl must face a fight to the death in front of live television cameras.

Set in a futuristic version of the United States, it’s bleak subject matter for teens, but the action and relationships are superbly handled and the commentaries on the future of reality television and society’s treatment of the young are present, but not pressured or overt.

It’s a great film, but whether it has the mass appeal of HP remains to be seen. It might just be too good for that.

WILD BILL

I love it when you get two films released that are both superb but both reflect the polar ends of the wonder that is the cinema spectrum.

If The Hunger Games is as big and slick and American as it gets, Wild Bill is as small and gritty and British as it gets.

The directorial debut of actor Dexter Fletcher, it tells the story of Bill (Charlie Creed-Miles), a man released from prison to find his two sons abandoned, struggling and under severe threat of going into care.

It’s a carefully rendered, funny and honest film that doesn’t patronise and tries to be cinematic and engaging and mostly succeeds thanks to passion from all involved in front of and behind the camera.

Creed-Miles (Nil By Mouth) is wonderful, as is Will Poulter (Son Of Rambow) as his oldest son, forced to become a dad to his little brother due to his wayward, incompetent father’s eight-year absence.

A great debut and a really good piece of British cinema.

ACT OF VALOUR

Interesting film that uses real soldiers instead of actors to tell the action-packed story of a group of Navy Seals who undertake a secret mission to rescue a kidnapped CIA operative.

Beyond the fact it’s true, and the actors are real soldiers, it’s simply a decent war film, nothing more.