Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – review

The third installment of The Hunger Games films is the weakest of the movies. This movie really did not need to be split into two films. The characters that were interesting in past films are almost non-existent in this chapter. Despite that, the actors do bring in good performances, there just isn’t enough to make this a good movie.

After surviving the Quarter Quell, Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, finds herself in District 13. She allies herself with the rebels there and she becomes the face of the resistance. Once she figures out the depth of war atrocities by the current President, she begins convincing the other Districts to rise up and fight against the Capitol.

The acting is very good. They touch on many themes of the horrors of war. Jennifer Lawrence does a fine job portraying Katniss. The characters of Haymitch, Effie, and even Johanna are barely in this movie.  We see some new talent from people like Natalie Dormer as Cressida, but again, she is underused despite how interesting her character seems.

The movie is long and fairly dull. Where the other films had lots of action, this movie has small moments of action surrounded by loads of filler.  The character of Peeta, played by Josh Hutcherson, is painfully annoying because, once again, he must be rescued. He feels like the most useless character in the entire Hunger Games series. The entire government of Panem seems to be incredibly stupid. For example, the President wants to quell a rebellion so he kills nearly everyone in a District. This is the same District that is in charge of mining coal for the whole of Panem. That seems like really poor planning unless they have an alternative energy source immediately lined up.

I cannot recommend this movie. If you are a fan of the rest of the series this would be worth seeing as a rental. It is really weak and they should have just kept the book as one entire film. I am curious as to how this will wrap up, especially with the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

New Book Available.

My book "Celluloid Dreams & HD Nightmares: Experiences of a Modern Movie Goer" is now available in paperback on Amazon and on Kindle. Get it in time for the holidays.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Fury – review

Fury takes a look at World War II from the battle lines of one of the tanks. It is not swimming in original or even likable characters, but the action is solid, dirty, bloody, and gritty. The actors also give the material their best, which makes it entertaining.

Taking place in Germany in 1945, four men man the tank called Fury. They are lead by Sargent Collier, played by Brad Pitt. A new private is added to their team, played by Logan Lerman. Together, they work to kill Nazis and ideally get through the war alive.

The acting is fine. Brad Pitt and Logan Lerman play characters desperately trying to hold onto their humanity. The rest of the characters are sociopathic. They are stone cold killers and take what they want, when they want it. They even lie to others and themselves in order to cope with the suffering of the war. For example: they tell themselves they have the best jobs they’ve ever had, even though it is a job that causes the death of many other people and can at any time lead to their own demise.

The characters for this story fall into stereotypical war movie characters that have been used so many times; the religious nut, the foreign guy, the psycho jerk, the new kid, and the hard-as-nails Sargent with a heart-of-gold are tropes we’ve seen too many times. It would have been nice if they took more risks.  Fury takes the easy route most of the movie. The exception is the action scenes, which are griping to watch.

The film is certainly worth a watch. I’d recommend a matinee or a rental though. While not the best of the World War II films out there, at the very least it is an entertaining movie.

Interstellar – review

If you ever wondered what 2001: A Space Odyssey might have been like if someone else directed it, this would be the result of that labor. Interstellar has amazing visuals, its soundtrack is nothing short of epic, and the acting is incredible with a cast of really amazing actors. The main problems are: the story is way too long; the dialogue is often maudlin; the dry, constant chatter about relativity makes this movie feel like a science lesson.

In the near future, Earth’s crops are dying from dust storms. Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey, is an ex-NASA pilot and engineer turned farmer who is living with his family. His daughter Murphy discovers that her room seems to have a ghost trying to communicate with her. When he looks into it, he discovers that one of the messages is a coordinate for a NASA base. When he visits the base, they recruit him for a mission to go through a wormhole discovered around Saturn. Their goal is to either find a new home for humanity, or to create a new colony using fertilized embryos.

The visuals for this film are often breath taking. Between the colossal dust storms in the farmlands that are like those of the Dust Bowl in the Great Depression, and the massive space landscapes, it is a wonderful vision. The future is portrayed as bleak and agrarian. The musical score matches the epic nature of all that you see. It comes off very grandiose.

The acting is fantastic. Jessica Chastain playing the adult Murphy might be Oscar worthy. Matthew McConaughey also does an admiral job as a pilot risking all for his family. Unfortunately, the relationship between McConaughey’s character and his son was cut too short.  It was as if the writer wanted the Cooper character to only have a real bond with only one of his children.

The movie is a very long sit, clocking in at close to three hours.  In that time you will hear a lot about relativity, the science of love, and the occasional bad joke from a robot that looks like a it’s made from Tetris pieces. When it begins to drift into the realm of time travel, it sends the viewer into an entirely different mind drain because there are paradoxes not addressed.

Is this a terrible movie? No. It isn’t a good movie though. A good movie is entertaining throughout and this was a slog at times. Normally, I would recommend it as a rental.  I do think it will lose a lot of the epic scale in a home viewing, much like the movie Gravity. That being said, if you are a fan of science fiction, or just curious about this movie- see it as a matinee. You’re less likely to be disappointed that way.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

St. Vincent – review

The balance of humor and drama of St. Vincent is much like the two faces of a coin. On one face, the movie is a dry comedy about an old bastard; on the other face, it’s a drama about a boy learning about his neighbor and why he is an imperfect old bastard.  The coin flips faces exceptionally well to keep this movie balanced and wildly entertaining.

Vincent, played by Bill Murray, is an old, drunk jerk. He is desperate for money in order to keep is wife in hospice care as well as pay off a loan shark. He meets his new neighbor, played by Melissa McCarthy, and begins babysitting her son for extra cash. Through experiences like taking the 12 year old to the racetrack and bars, they both learn form one another.

St. Vincent features a lot of great talent. The cast is very believable and performs exceptionally in their roles. It is great to see Melissa McCarthy as the “straight man” in a movie. Naomi Watts plays Vincent’s pregnant, Russian, stripper girlfriend and she is a delight. Bill Murray is at his most impressive as well. He runs the gamut of emotions and is able to play the victim of a stroke incredibly well.

St. Vincent has a few moments that are sentimental, but these moments are not distracting nor do they come off as manipulative. The film was made very well and is incredibly entertaining. It is some of Bill Murray’s best work and is really worth checking out. Give St. Vincent a try. It is a great movie that is certainly worth your time.