Elizabeth Banks

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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.

 

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Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part One

Published December 24, 2014 by mrsrag

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

Rated: PG-13.  Adventure/Science Fiction.  Running Time: 2 hours and 3 minutes.

Harry Potter, Twilight and now The Hunger Games.  I know you’ve heard this lament before from both of us, but it bears repeating.  Why must they take our favorite books and split up the last installments?  The only possible answer is money.  They KNOW we’ll pay and they take advantage of that to get two monster box offices out of one.  It’s a shame and a terribly exploitive practice.  These movies become incomplete weigh stations for the final payoff, yet they need to be seen.  A truly sorry state of affairs.  At any rate, when last we saw Katniss (Lawrence) in Catching Fire, she was being airlifted out of the games’ dome after taking it out with an arrow.  Shit was hitting the fan as the revolution had begun in Panem in earnest.  In THG:M-P1, she wakes up on the ship pissed off and confused.  Plutarch (the late Hoffman), Haymitch (Harrelson), Finnick (Claflin) and Gale (Hemsworth) are there among others, but no Peeta (Hutcherson). He got left behind during the rescue, and is apparently working propaganda for the Capitol.  Katniss meets a new character, President Coin (Moore), leader of the rebellion, who convinces her to be the inspirational face that the resistance lacks.  Originally reticent to the idea, Katniss signs on after she sees the ruins of her home District 12.  From District 13 they plan their strategy, and we watch and wait for Part 2. 

Here’s an idea:  just make one great movie modeled after the one great book.  They stretch it into two and the 1st installment consistently blows.  Infuriating & insanely boring.  Ross was actually sleeping at one point and I had to elbow him awake.  J.Law still delivers a convincing portrayal of Ms. Everdeen, but it’s starting to feel a bit stale.  Possibly because I’ve been disappointed with her transformation lately.  I miss that genuinely funny, salt of the Earth chick she was when she broke onto the scene.  She seems to have given into the stigma of Hollywood.  The only thing that breathes any kind of life into Mockingjay is the chemistry between Donald Sutherland’s President Snow and the new poster girl of revolution.  However, without the entertainment provided by the usual games, we have to settle for the raw brutality of war.  This coupled with the lack of resolution to our story make this one a snoozer.  But, like Ross said, they don’t care.  They churn out shit, but they’re still making big bucks.

I really hope Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t end up a diva like everyone else, but she does seem to be on that path of late.  She is only 24, and she’s been on the fame train for many years already, it must be difficult to keep perspective with all the money and people telling you how great you are constantly.  And she IS great by the way, so maybe she’ll turn out okay.  As for THG: Mockingjay- Part 1, Maria has it right, it’s a snoozer.  My eyes were droopy, and that NEVER happens to me.  From now on, if they insist on keeping up with the split finales, I’m waiting for video for the first installment.  That being said, I can’t wait for Part 2!

After all that bitching and moaning, I’m still looking forward to Part 2 as well.  Shit has really got to start hitting the fan now.  Although, I can’t for the life of me figure out how they are going to stay true to the books and still get a PG-13 rating.  Luckily, after THG: Mockingjay- Part 1, my hopes aren’t too high.  But it can’t be worse.  For starters, our story will finally come to a conclusion.  And all of our characters will find themselves immersed in a violent and turbulent end.  Hopefully, at some point soon J.Law will level out and find her roots again.  I’d like to see her involved in an independent project, like her break out role in Winter’s Bone.  Getting back to the basics would be good for her.

Ross’ Rating: 2.75 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 3 Gummies.

 

 

 

Movie Review: The Lego Movie

Published February 12, 2014 by mrsrag

Starring the voices of: Chris Pratt, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, Charlie Day, Nick Offerman, Shaquille O’Neil, Jonah Hill.

Rated: PG.  Animated/Comedy.  Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes.

Ross leaned over toward the end of the movie and said, “This may be the most clever kids movie I’ve ever seen…or the most clever movie ever.”  Which is saying a lot considering he’s seen a TON of movies, especially of the kid genre.  Clever is the best one word description of this film.  He wasn’t even looking forward to it as much as Ethan and I were.  As we walked to the car he declared, “Well, that was 1,000 times better than I thought it was going to be.”  The Lego Movie was full of fun, laughs and tons of heart.  The jokes were so high brow that out of a packed theatre, Ross and I found ourselves to be the only two hysterically laughing.  I’m not saying the two of us are ready to join Mensa, but these jokes were too funny not to be laughing if you understood them.  Some of my personal favorites were the references to things such as ‘Kragle’, an old tube of Krazy Glue with some illegible letters, the orb of ‘Titleist’ – an ordinary golf ball and the ‘Exact zero’ blade, an Exacto knife.  They flawlessly integrated these everyday household objects into the fantastical plot surrounding the Lego characters.  And the cast of Lego people included, but were not limited to the following: Batman, Wonder Woman, Abraham Lincoln, Gandalf, Superman, the Green Lantern, the Green Ninja, a bunch of Star Wars characters and the usual yellow-faced dudes.  One of which ends up fulfilling a prophecy about a master builder who will save the World.  Emmett is just a regular old construction worker who likes to follow the rules, enjoys his daily routine and just wants to make friends.  Until one day when he sets eyes on the girl of his dreams.  While in pursuit, he literally stumbles upon the ‘piece of resistance’ and is thrust into an unexpected adventure.

The “Polish (think Poland) Remover of Nigh-ell, for nail polish remover was one of my favorites!  Having watched Lego based shows Ninjago and The Legends of Chima on Cartoon Network with Ethan, I REALLY wasn’t expecting much from The Lego Movie, and as is often the case I was more than pleasantly surprised.  The voice actors  were perfectly cast here and the writing is off the charts.  Everyman hero Emmet (Pratt), Master Po-like mentor Vitruvius (Freeman), vibrant vixen Wyldstyle (Banks), her beau Batman (Arnett), Bad Cop/Good Cop (Neeson) and Lord Business/President Business (Ferrell) are the core of the movie, and they banter and battle their way through the land of Legos with blissful abandon.  I honestly can’t wait to see it again to memorize more of the classic lines.  And as if the whole romp wasn’t enough on it’s own, there is a spectacular twist at the end (that Maria mostly saw coming I might add), that brings it to an even higher level.  Go see The Lego Movie.  You’re kids will love it and if you keep your attention vigilant, you’ll hear some of the wittiest jokes and references since the Shrek series.  “I will repay you.  Unless of course I can’t find you, or I forget.” 

Much like Shrek, The Lego Movie is full of classics.  It definitely merits another watch.  Along with the witty jokes and clever plot, there is also a deeper allegory that focuses on conformity.  The underlying message being: be creative, think outside the box and don’t always follow the instructions.  This movie just makes you feel good after seeing it and it will make you laugh.  Something I think we could all use.  Just go see this movie because, “EVERYTHING IS AWESOME…”

“Everything is Awesome”, the signature song from the movie is a catchy, brainless ditty that you will find yourself humming on the way out.  We have seen some great animated films in the last year or so.  Wreck-It Ralph (which I thought should have definitely beat out Brave for Best Animated), Despicable Me 2, and the fantastic Frozen.  The Lego Movie fits in nicely with those gems.  First week gross was $69,000,00, easily outdistancing The Monuments Men $22,000,000.  It remains to be seen if TLM can catch Frozen’s $350,000,000 and counting, but I’m guessing word of mouth will push it to the stratosphere.  Would be absolutely shocked if we don’t see more from the land of interlocking blocks, and I for one can’t wait!  Who would of thought, little yellow people with “C’s”  for hands = box office gold?!  Awesome, indeed.

Maria’s Rating: 5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating: 4.5 Gummies.

Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Published November 30, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz, Paula Malcomson, Willow Sheilds, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Rated: PG-13.  Action/Adventure/Science Fiction.  Running Time: 2 hours 26 minutes.

My girl crush stars in this second installment of The Hunger Games trilogy.  Katniss Everdeen is unbelievably radical.  And the actress they cast to play her, Jennifer Lawrence, literally IS a girl on fire.  She’s been having a moment since early last year when the first ‘Games’ was released.  Then we saw her in Silver Linings Playbook delivering Robert DeNiro a tongue lashing – and my crush grew deeper.  Now she’s overexposed, plastered on every magazine with that pixie cut and somehow I still love her.  Obviously, she steals the show here as bow wielding and reluctant poster girl Katniss, “the Mockingjay”.  But as with most trilogies, this is just a means to an end.  I pose this question: Why can’t we just produce all three movies and release them all at once with a combined lower ticket price?  Oh, that’s right, because the film industry is full of money grubbing whores who enjoy playing with our emotions and sucking us dry at every opportunity.  I’ll step off my soap box for exactly 1 minute to get back to the movie.  I loved it.  But why wouldn’t I?  I read all the books.  I know what’s in store.  And it’s a tale about a girl who kicks major ass and ignites a revolution.  BOOM.  My one regret about this latest viewing: we didn’t rent and watch the first one.  It must be amateur hour!

Even though we’ve seen the first movie several times, it’s been so long we absolutely should’ve watched it again before we went to Catching Fire, a refreshed memory would’ve helped immensely.  Everything eventually came back to me of course, Maria and I are both huge fans of Suzanne Collins wildly successful books.  I read all three in three days and I remember thinking they could make wonderful movies if done right.  They did a great job with the first movie.  So much of the book was inside Katniss’ head, how she figured things out as she struggled to survive during The Hunger Games.  They utilized Stanley Tucci’s character Caesar Flickerman perfectly in his role as MC of the insane games with a manic enjoyment that seemed somehow natural.  Using Caeser to explain what she was thinking was genius.  Catching Fire was not as good, but it really is the nature of the second movie of a trilogy.  They are generally weigh stations to the climax of the story, and almost always the worst of the three.  Think, Back to the Future 2, Matrix Reloaded, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, to name a few.  All decent but definitely inferior to their celluloid siblings.  Regardless, I have high hopes for the third installment, Mockingjay, which should be out in a couple of years or so.  Hopefully we’ll remember to rent Catching Fire before we go see that one. 

I am extremely interested to see how they plan to pull off this final movie.  And I’m sure, if you’ve read the books, you’re probably wondering the same.  My best friend Gina initially turned me onto the book series, during a stint where each of us was addicted to a YA (young adult) novel.  Read the books!!  Even if you’ve seen these movies, this series reads well and quick.  Collins hooks the reader immediately and never lets go.  Plus, it vastly improves your viewing experience.  Catching Fire focuses on Peeta’s realization that Katniss was just playing up their romance to survive.  She finds herself in a predicament as she tries to accept her role as a defiant revolutionary and still serve to protect those she loves.  The film explores how drastically her life has changed since winning the games.  Including, but not limited to the constant nightmares and terrifying flashbacks that plague her everyday thoughts.  The title speaks for itself.  Unrest is spreading and Katniss is left with no choice, but to accept her destiny as ‘the Mockingjay.’

You can certainly enjoy these movies without reading the books, but I found my self wondering how confused I might be if I hadn’t.  It really is a great story of courage and perseverance against staggering odds.  Donald Sutherland is unapologetically evil as the main antagonist “President” Snow.  The leader of the controlling government centered in The Capital, where the privileged have everything they need to excess, he leads The Districts with a dictatorial hand.  The common people who populate these areas are starving and ensconced in slave-like servitude.  The Hunger Games bring together each year two young people from each District to participate in a winner take all fight to the death, to remind them that “resistance is futile”, to borrow a phrase from Star Trek’s penultimate villains,  The Borg.  Katniss unlikely journey from just trying to stay alive to eventual reluctant leader of the uprising is the heart of the story, and I can’t imagine another actress today pulling it off with such perfect aplomb.  Who does she really love?  Who can she trust?  How can she hope to succeed?  An underdog story with some familiar themes that are part of our heritage as Americans.  Read the books, they’re target audience are YA, but they’re a great read for all ages.  And go see the movies, Catching Fire missed a bit for me, but ultimately worth it, I hope, when the finished body of work has been viewed.  Jennifer Lawrence has “It”, and The Hunger Games is just the beginning for her.  She also seems to be a real person who says pretty much anything she wants without worrying about being PC.  Hollywood could use a dozen more just like her. 

Maria’s Rating:  4 out of 5 Gummy Bears.

Ross’ Rating:  3 Gummies.

  

Fairly Recent DVD Release: Movie 43

Published September 5, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Greg Kinnear, Common, Charlie Saxton, Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Live Schreiber, Naomi Watts, Anna Faris, Chris Pratt, J.B. Smoove, Emma Stone, Kieran Culkin, Richard Gere, Kate Bosworth, Jack McBryer, Aasif Mandvi, Justin Long, Jason Sudeikis, Uma Thurman, Bobby Cannavale, Kristen Bell, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe Grace Moretz, Gerard Butler, Johnny Knoxville, Sean William Scott, Halle Berry, Stephen Merchant, Terrence Howard, Josh Duhamel, and Elizabeth Banks.

Rated: R. Comedy. Running Time: 1 hour & 34 minutes.

Ross and I rented Movie 43 on a whim.  We were en route to our home from cocktails & dinner.  Neither of us was expecting much at all.  I remember seeing the previews and thinking, “Wow, that’s some cast” (see above listing).  But then it fell off the radar.  And I figured, if no one is talking about it, could it really be worth watching?  The answer is: YES.  The movie makes up for any later transgression in the first skit.  Five minutes in, Ross and I were laughing so hard that neither of us could speak or breathe.  That being said, if you don’t like immature humor, skip this one and you should probably leave my blog for good.  We had no idea what to expect, but what unfolded on the screen left us bewildered, delighted and quite intrigued.  Once the movie got rolling, we realized it was a series of interconnected sketches featuring some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.  I kept asking myself, “How did they get all these people!”  There were some promising moments of hilarity & ingenuity…but taken in its entirety – this movie was bad.

I had no idea what we were in for when we rented Movie 43, but with that cast, you had to expect something decent.  I don’t know if I agree with Maria that the movie was bad.  If a movie entertains, makes you laugh or cry or feel exhilarated, I think that’s enough.  I will say the premise, an ever increasingly insane Dennis Quaid (playing a version of himself?) pitching his movie idea to a generic movie executive, Kinnear, is silly.  The “movie” is just a series of skits.  There is no way anyone could think they could make a coherent, full standing movie.  However, many of the vignettes are clever and hilarious.  None more than the first one, a first date for Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet.  If you follow MRSRAG at all, you know that Maria and I rarely, if ever, give out spoilers, and we’re not going to do it here.  But this first skit has a shocking surprise, a side splittingly funny one that keeps on giving.  Beyond the great opener, a few of my favorites were, Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts as parents who are homeschooling their teenaged son, complete with all of high school’s worst possible scenarios.  A girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) getting her  period for the first time.  And Terrence Howard as a basketball coach circa the 1960’s (think Pleasantville or Hoosiers) giving a pep talk to his all black team before their first game against an all white squad.  While maybe “bad” isn’t the right word to describe Movie 43, it is hard to believe the creators convinced all these “A” list actors to associate their names with it.  

It was entertaining, but at times, hard to watch.  I’m actually surprised that Ross enjoyed it more than me, since he has some difficulty with awkward humor.  I will say that Movie 43 is like nothing I’ve ever seen.  And the “A” list actors is what put some of the skits over the edge for me.  Watching these Academy Award nominees and winners act out these absurd storylines was not only amusing, but shocking.  It took me a full day to get over the movie.  I kept asking Ross, “Was that real?”, “How did they get everyone to sign on?”, “Did I drink a lot last night?”!  It is in one word: unbelievable.  There were several vignettes, most of which my partner has described, that were pure comic genius.  They must be viewed.  But if I really look at this film in its entirety, it missed the mark.  And that is truly unfortunate because it contains so much potential.  Bottom line, go rent this for a $1.27.  The belly laughs are well worth that price.

An extremely tough movie to review.  Ultimately I have to recommend that you see it.  If you’re in the mood for some raunchy, clever, original comedy, Movie 43 should get the job done.  It certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and it won’t end up on your Top 20 list, but it’s not quite like anything you’ve ever seen before.  And, you will probably never see a larger collection of stars in one project.  There is one last scene I have to mention; a skit where a man is obviously going to propose marriage to his girlfriend.  “I have something I want to say.”  “Me too”, she replies.  “Ok, let’s say it together.  One. Two. Three….”  She beats him to the punch, and I almost fell off the couch!  You may want to keep some pillows handy for that one.

Maria’s Rating:  2.5 Gummy Bears out of 5. (Mostly for Jackman & Winslet)

Ross’ Rating:  3.25 Gummies.