Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

Published November 24, 2015 by mrsrag

Mockinjay

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelsom, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Banks, Jeffrey Wright, Paula Malcomson, Willow Shields, Sam Claflin, Stanley Tucci.

Rated: PG-13.  Sci-Fi/Adventure.  Running Time: 2 hours 17 minutes.

Maria and I have stumbled across and watched two of the worst acted movies of all time in the last few weeks.  1999’s putrescent Resurrection, with Christopher Lambert and this year’s equally abysmal Vice, starring Bruce Willis and Thomas Jane.  Please avoid these movies at all costs! There was one upside to viewing them however, they made me realize that Jennifer Lawrence is the best actress to come along since Meryl Streep, period.  She becomes every character she plays, and brings out the nuances of the human condition with an underlying fierceness, that simply makes it impossible to take your eyes off of her.  Very seldom do you read a book, then see a movie based on said book, and totally agree with the casting, and THG:MP2 is no exception.   Woody Harrelson as Haymitch is off base for me, as are Gale (Hemsworth) and Peta (Hutcherson), but Suzanne Collins had to be blown away by Jennifer Lawrence, she IS Katniss Everdeen and I can’t imagine anyone else in the role.  The final installment does the franchise proud, and stays true to the books.  Actually, I found myself jealous of those in the packed theater that hadn’t read the books.  It would have been better if I didn’t know what was coming.  Either way, Mockingjay Part 2 is fabulous, go see it ASAP!

Well, we’re back in the saddle again.  And what a great time to choose to revisit our reviews.  Mockingjay Part 2 is enjoying its first weekend in theatres, which we all know will result in a number 1 spot run for an undecided amount of weeks.  But this time, it actually earns it.  Last year Part 1 left me pissed off and feeling robbed.  As you all know, I despise when a final installment is cut into two money grabbing sections and let’s be frank, Part 1 does not have the plotline to stand on its own.  Part 2 is presented as a peace offering, with its nonstop action, cameos by every major character and closure on all storylines.  As Ross mentioned, we were both envious of our clueless audience members who either could not remember or never read the books.  We knew what was coming, but that didn’t take too much away from the emotional gut punch and never disappointing Ms. Everdeen.  Lawrence is the glue that makes this screen adaptation work, with wonderful supporting roles from Phillip Seymour Hoffman (RIP) and Donald Sutherland.  The others deliver decent performances, but the three I have listed really steal the show.  Especially the intense and rare interactions between Sutherland and Lawrence.  These two actors fully embrace and embody their characters and it is a pleasure to watch them on screen together.  Even knowing what happened didn’t weaken the tension as the last half hour of the film unfolded.  I truly enjoyed this series, both in print and on screen.

Oh I have to agree wholeheartedly, Donald Sutherland is deliciously evil as the remorseless President Snow.  Very few movies can reach the heights of greatness without a superior villain.  You may have noticed that we haven’t done any plot review in our review, well we figure that if you’re going to the fourth installment of The Hunger Games, you must have a pretty good grip on what’s going on.  Suffice it to say that Katniss and her compatriots have their work cut out for them to save the residents of Panem.  There are equal parts triumph and tragedy and sometimes it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys.  Through it all, there is Katniss, the Mockinjay; Panem would be totally fucked without her.  Three finger salute to you my dear, thanks for the spectacular ride!

The fourth installment can be summed up in a whispered remark passed from Finnick to Katniss, “Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the 76th Hunger Games”.  This time the games are set on demolished city streets, and they are a spectacular backdrop for this violent and arduous war.  Snow has some hidden surprises for the rebels who are invading his beloved Capitol.  And he plans to make their deaths as entertaining and public as possible.  It’s war, so of course there will be casualties.  Some harder to swallow than others.  But Mockingjay Part 2 is a proper send off for this cast and crew who have delivered a series worthy of such a masterful story; demonstrative of human beings heroism, defiance and hope.  And we sure could use some of those in our real lives.

Ross’ Rating: 4 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 4.5 Gummies.

 

Movie Review: Trainwreck

Published July 28, 2015 by mrsrag

trainwreck

Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Colin Quinn, John Cena, Tilda Swinton, LeBron James.

Rated: R.  Comedy.  Running Time: 2 hours 5 minutes.

Maria and I certainly didn’t discover Amy Schumer, but we do feel we were in the first wave of her admirers.  Her raunchy humor and matter-of-fact delivery are right up our alley.  You should check out her show, Inside Amy Schumer on Comedy Central, if you’ve not yet discovered this American treasure.  Trainwreck is her first attempt at a starring role on the big screen (she’s had a couple of small parts previously), she also wrote the screenplay and lured Judd Apatow to direct it.  Another of our favorites, Bill Hader plays Amy’s love interest, and their chemistry carries the film.  The tale begins with Amy in a relationship with John Cena’s character, but she’s playing around on him every chance she can, after all, “he’s like making love with an ice sculpture.”  They do have a scene together where she asks him to talk dirty to her during sex, and his epically bad attempt is hilarious.  Their relationship is short lived, the break up is another pure Amy moment, and we never see Cena again which was a surprise to me.  Trainwreck just delivers from start to finish and beyond Amy and Hader, the supporting cast is great as well.  Colin Quinn as Amy’s irascible father, a nearly unrecognizable Tilda Swinton as Amy’s heartless boss and even Lebron James playing himself like you’ve never seen, blend together in perfect fashion.  The theater was packed and the laughs were constant.  Amy has a hit without a doubt, and I’m hoping this is just the beginning for her. 

The Schumes.  I love this girl.  She embodies everything I like to see in a female comedian.  Her crass, unapologetic and true humor speaks to me, and many women across generations.  I’m not saying she’s a role model, as the title infers she (or her character) is quite a hot mess.  But her act subtly filters in female empowerment, while maintaining a healthy dose of humility and self-parody.  Ross and I first saw her on HBO in 2012 when her comedy special, ‘Mostly Sex Stuff’ debuted and we instantly liked her style.  The fashionably short, yet proper looking dress she donned coupled with her understated delivery & coarse wit caught our attention.  And we knew she had that something.  We were pleased when Comedy Central offered her her own show.  One of my favorite skits from ‘Inside A.S.’ is titled “12 Angry Men”, you should look it up on YouTube when you get a chance.  It is hilarious and packed with big stars that will both shock you and make it even more enjoyable.  I would suggest giving the show a test run before going to view Trainwreck, because Schumer definitely has a distinct flavor of humor.  You will either love it or hate it.  And frankly, if you hate it – then we would probably not be a good match up for friendship.  Basically everyone I know loves her or has found something to admire in her quick rise to stardom.  And as she noted, “I’m not really a slut.  I’ve only had sex with four guys, and that was a weird night.”

Beyond the bawdy humor, I was truly shocked at the acting chops displayed by Amy and Bill Hader.  The latter has made a career playing weird, off the charts, cartoon-like characters.  Beyond his numerous SNL bits, check him out in Clear History or 22 Jump Street, or even his voice over work in several animated films.  All quirky, but funny.  He plays it pretty straight here, and as I mentioned before, he and Amy have great chemistry.  Trainwreck grossed $30 million it’s first weekend, just behind can’t miss movies Ant Man and Minions.  Thirty mil for an R rated movie is big business these days when the kiddies are taken out of the equation, and word of mouth has to keep people filling the seats for the foreseeable future.  One final note, here’s hoping that fucking sick prick that shot up the theater in Louisiana doesn’t hurt the films business.  Our country has these types of incidents far too frequently, and I wish there was a quick solution to the problem, but in the meantime we all just need to keep living our lives.  Stay alert for sure, but don’t let them effect where you go or what you do, otherwise they win.  And I for one say, fuck that!  Sorry for the sermon, go see Trainwreck, it’s two hours well spent.

It’s sad that you have to ‘stay alert’ nearly everywhere today.  You can’t send your kids to school, you can’t go to the mall, you can’t even go to the movies without worrying about some self righteous asshole attacking you for no apparent reason.  But those unfortunate human specimens will never keep me from going to do what I love.  You can’t live like that.  It’s just a shame that in the U.S. we seem to harbor so many of these selfish psychos and have to read about a new shooting every other day.  But I digress.  Trainwreck is a guaranteed fun night out with lots of laughs and captivating entertainment.  Schumer delivers a smart and funny assessment of the dating scene in our current culture.  She completely shatters the stereotype that ‘women can’t be funny’, which I’ve heard one too many times in my lifetime.  Men and women alike seem to enjoy her brand of humor and she is redefining what it means to be a woman of comedy.  I wish her all of the success in the world, but I know she doesn’t need it.  I’m a fan Schumes, you keep doing you girl.

Ross’ Rating: 4.25 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 4 Gummies.

Movie Review: Jurassic World

Published June 25, 2015 by mrsrag

jurassic worldStarring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, Irrfan Kahn, BD Wong, Judy Greer, Lauren Lapkus, Katie McGrath, Vincent D’Onforio.

Rated: PG-13.  Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi.  Running Time: 2 hours 4 minutes.

When I was in First Grade I ordered these dinosaur booklets for my whole class (they were free and cool as shit!) from Rex Trailer’s Boomtown, a Boston kid’s show that was on Sunday mornings.  I have always been fascinated by dinosaurs since I can remember, like many of you out there I’m sure.  When Jurassic Park came out in 1993, I raced out to see it and to this day have a hard time passing it by when it’s on.  22 years have gone by, two very mediocre sequels were made, but I was still pretty jazzed to see Jurassic World.  Wow, it was even better than I thought it could be!  Without giving too much away, Jurassic World is a functioning theme park on Isla Nublar (the original island), and has been for ten years.  John Hammond’s vision has come true, unfortunately, interest is waning a bit (you know because dinosaurs are so boring.  Humans!) so the park owners create a new hybrid dinosaur: Indominus Rex.  You can see where this is going without me telling you, Jurassic World is great, but it’s still pretty formulaic and somewhat predictable.  What makes it so enjoyable is the chemistry between the likeable Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard.  The subtle bad guy turn by D’Onofrio, the cool, state-of-the-art theme park, and of course the dinosaurs.  My personal favorite; Mosasaurus, the huge crocodile-ish creature that has a Shamu-like act in a massive  pool.  Don’t get too close though, you might get splashed…with blood!

I’ve always had a thing for dinosaurs too.  Something about the sheer size of these creatures is naturally alluring.  I remember learning about them in school and being completely captivated.  Unfortunately, in ’93 I was 9 and wasn’t frequenting the movies.  Especially, movies with scary T-Rex’s eating people off toilets and raptors chasing children.  I was probably off somewhere enjoying, ‘The Land before Time’ with Little Foot and the whole gang.  Years later I would eventually get to see Jurassic Park.  It was a real treat getting to view it in 3-D a couple of years ago when they re-released it in theatres.  It has always made sense to me to see these movies featuring special effects on the big screen.  And so, Jurassic World seemed like a perfect pick for Father’s Day weekend with Ethan.  I was impressed with how he handled the jump scares and bloodshed, as this was by far the most violent out of the three.  We had heard a lot of mixed reviews about the film, so I went in with fairly low expectations.  But honestly, I enjoyed myself and I think the boys really liked it too.  There’s only so much you can do – rebuild the park, open it to the public and dinosaurs get loose.  I’m not sure what people are expecting.  The plot is formulaic because they’ve covered all possible storylines.  The cast really breathes new life into this latest rendition.

The violence is pretty hardcore.  Ethan is eleven and he handled it okay, but I’d leave the little ones home for this one.  Keep an eye on Zara (McGrath), Bryce Dallas Howard’s assistant, her demise is epic.   I’ll be honest, I read an article about Chris Pratt in Esquire a few months ago, and the guy comes across as a bit of a dick.  But there is no denying that he has something going on, on screen.  I thought he was excellent in Guardians of the Galaxy and he also voiced the lead, Emmitt, in 2014’s  fabulous The Lego Movie.  The man is on a roll.  The supporting cast scores here too.  Jake Johnson from Let’s be Cops, Nick Robinson of The Kings of Summer, Irrfan Kahn from Life of PI, Omar Sy from the fantastic foreign film The Intouchables, and BD Wong the only holdover from Jurassic Park, all contribute fine performances.  Like Maria said, there is only so much plot twisting they can do, but I say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”   And it’s not like there aren’t any surprises; Velociraptors as good guys?!  No way you saw that one coming.

I have to assume that with the record setting box office success of JW, that they will no doubt have another installment of this series coming soon.  The effects really make these movies and they peppered in just enough flavor of real life, to make the technological advances seem reasonable.  There was a really cool scene featuring these gyroscopic balls that park goers direct into the fields with the gentle giants, but as things always seem to do, something goes awry.  There was a brilliant add on of Jimmy Fallon giving instructions and safety tips on how to operate the gyroscope.  And anyone who frequents amusement parks knows they love to feature a celebrity in their safety videos.  Jurassic World didn’t blow me away, but it was an entertaining and enjoyable film.  Perfect for this set of audience members, as we are trying to branch Ethan out into some more mature fare, within reason.  And he handled it like a champ!

Ross’ Rating: 4.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s rating: 4 out of 5 Gummies.

 

Recent DVD Release: Fifty Shades of Grey

Published June 11, 2015 by mrsrag

grey

Starring:  Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle, Eloise Mumford, Victor Rasuk, Luke Grimes, Rita Ora, Marcia Gay Harden.

Rated: R.  Drama/Romance.  Running Time: 2 hours 5 minutes.

If you follow us here at MRSRAG, you might remember our scathing review of E.L. James’ preposterously, poorly written book, Fifty Shades of Grey.  Maria and I couldn’t have hated it more, which might lead you to ask: “Why rent the movie then?”  Let’s call it curiosity and the belief that the movie could not possibly be as bad as the book.  The filmmakers indeed stayed true to the book, and in turn created one of the worst pieces of cinema ever made.  Epically bad.  If you aren’t already familiar with the story of  young billionaire Christian Grey (Dornan) and mousy literature student Anastasia Steele (Johnson), and their warped “Dominant”/”Submissive” relationship; I implore you to stay away!   As truly horrible as the book was, the casting of these two is “perfect” in keeping with the theme of putridness that had been set.  The bar was set as low as possible, yet they somehow limbo danced under it anyway.  Jamie Dornan shouldn’t be allowed in a dog food commercial, and Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith’s girl Dakota, surely has to have her parents hiding their faces in shame.  The bottom line for me is, even if the book had been well written, the movie well acted, I can’t understand the audience for this material.  I know there is a market for romance novels, too many people in this world have no spark in their lives, that genre fills a need.  But this soft porn nonsense?  Who needs it?  If you want to rub one out, male or female, there is so much porn out there on the internet for free, you can play with yourself until your hands ache.  What are you getting from Christian and Anastasia?  They have no personality.  They have no chemistry.  There is no romance, only a little rough sex that isn’t all that rough to be honest.  So, what’s the draw here?  I admit it, I’m confused, because Fifty Shades of Grey is fucking horrendous!!!

Christian Grey is an asshole. And let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment ladies: if he wasn’t disgustingly rich, he’d be a total creeper. So, because he owns a helicopter, runs a business and flies G5’s, we can excuse his unacceptable behavior? And answer to his ridiculously condescending terms: ‘submissive shall not consume alcohol to excess, submissive shall not partake in recreational drugs’ etc. How about you GFY? And after all of this written consent, ‘red tape’ and other contractual bullshit, he doesn’t even deliver. He’s like a sad shell of a sadist, if you’re into that type of thing. If you want to see an accurate and erotic depiction of sadism, please rent “The Secretary” starring James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal, instead. That film delivers, without polluting the story with horrible dialogue and implausible plotlines. Anastasia is a fumbling, clumsy, grade A rip off of Bella Swan. I’ve read that E.L. James based her novel off of the Twilight series, but if you’ve read that collection of books, then you know they should not even be mentioned in the same sentence. Stephanie Meyer can actually write. Some people I love, like and respect, enjoy these books, but I don’t know how. They are SO bad, and the movie somehow matched this atrocious set of novels. I suggest if you’re looking for some smut literature, you talk to my best friend, Gina Gallo. She is the authority on well written smut. Well written being the key term.

Speaking of alternatives, you can easily get the same entertainment value of Fifty Shades almost any late night on Cinemax (aka Skinemax). The bad acting, shitty sex scenes and cheesy dialogue are spot on, and the quality may actually be superior to FSOG (which is insane because Skinemax is laughably bad.) The most egregious thing the filmmakers did in making this movie, wasn’t adapting a rotten book, or casting “D” actors. It wasn’t the miserable score or implausable plot. No, it was having the balls to make the piece of shit over 2 hours long! We can never get that time back, but at least it only cost us $1.59 from the Redbox.

I did get a nice belly laugh and snort from the dialogue during the first few minutes. But those laughs are cheap and get tiresome quickly. The most genuinely entertaining couple of minutes in the film, where they were actually trying to get laughs, is when they conduct a ‘business meeting’ about the terms laid out in Grey’s contract for Ms. Steele. That’s literally all it has to offer, which lasts all of about 30 seconds. Obviously the target audience is women, but what I can’t wrap my mind around is how well educated, bright and beautiful ladies are eating this garbage up! In my honest opinion, I’d have to assume that the majority are single. And if not, their male counterparts are not taking care of them properly. Sorry, but IMO that is the only explanation for how anyone could find anything enjoyable about this trash.  In fact, the best explanation I have heard is from the smut authority, Gina Gallo.  Perhaps she will enlighten us all with a detailed comment presenting her insightful perspective.  I’ve just recently heard that a new book is coming out shortly called, “Grey”. I’ll be sure to pick up a copy on the off chance that we run out of toilet paper. But the pages will most certainly already be covered in shit.

Ross’ Rating: .5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 0 Gummies.