Jennifer Lawrence

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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.

 

 

 

Recent DVD Release: American Hustle

Published April 4, 2014 by mrsrag

Starring: Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., Jack Huston, Michael Pena, Shea Whigham, Paul Herman, Anthony Zerbe, Robert De Niro.

Rated: R.  Crime/Drama/A Little History.  Running Time: 2 hours 18 minutes.

 

The hair.  This movie is worth a watch for the sole purpose of seeing Christian Bale’s incomparable comb over.  Or peeping Bradley Cooper’s remarkable perm.  And the clothes.  Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence sport some deep v’s that rival that of awards season fashion.  And the guys are looking sharp in big collared shirts with flashy bell bottomed pants.  This amiable ensemble is the glue for David O’Russell’s sophomore directorial picture.  The film opens with the intriguing bit “A lot of this happened”…which leaves the audience to deduce that some of did not.  Artistic liberty, I would guess.  American Hustle is the story of con artist Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and his sultry sidekick, Sydney Prosser (Adams).  The pair are busted by the FBI during one of their loan scams and an overzealous agent forces the two to participate in a larger bust.  That bust being the FBI ABSCAM operation of the 1970’s; an elaborate sting targeting corrupt politicians.  The eager agent, Richie DiMaso (Cooper), is young, dumb and full of…bad ideas.  He gets the trio entangled in schemes involving the mafia and the entrapment of some very high up officials.  Including Mayor Carmine Polito (Renner), a family man of sorts who is widely known and loved by his constituents.  Polito and Rosenfeld form a friendship, which serves in leading the operation to its limited success.  And also leads to Rosenfeld developing a much needed conscience.

I was around during ABSCAM (Maria had not yet graced the Earth with her arrival), but I must admit, I don’t remember too much about it.  A fake sheik, the FBI and some money hungry politicians.  It did seem like the crimes were concocted by the feds and dangled in front of the poor saps.  I suppose they could have said “no” to the cash, but as the deals were all fabricated, it’s somewhat like a wife sending horny, naked babes to her husband’s office and having them stick their hands down his pants; and then divorcing him if he cheats on her.  Maria mentioned the hair and the clothes, which are indeed worth watching American Hustle on their own, but the acting?!  Oh my goodness, the four leads here throw out performances for the ages.  To me the subject matter was secondary; watching the interaction of these crazy, quirky, complicated characters brought to life by Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and most of all Jennifer Lawrence, is better than any reality show on TV.  Bale has been a standout since he burst on the scene in Empire of the Sun, and I always expect greatness from him.  Jennifer Lawrence at 23 is already at the very top of Hollywood’s A list, as is her Silver Linings Playbook co-star Bradley Cooper.  And Amy Adams hasn’t been nominated for five Academy Awards by accident, the girl can act!  I mean honestly, how many more movies do you think will be made where Jeremy Renner is an afterthought?      

Very true.  Renner is always superb and it’s shocking that he’s so easy to overlook in this role.  Lawrence absolutely steals the show as Rosenfeld’s manipulative and conniving old lady.  She commands every ounce of attention every time she’s on screen.  The casting of this movie is both interesting and impressive.  I would never have imagined Bale or Cooper in either of the roles they portray here, but somehow it works.  The heart of the story didn’t quite pique my interest as much as I had hoped.  However, the conclusion did add some much needed spice.  As Ross had stated, the fabulous performances are what drive this piece.  Unfortunately, this was one of those cliché experiences when a movie gets way over hyped before you get a chance to see it.  Too much awards season buzz mixed with friendly entertainment gossip.  It isn’t going to make me forget about Silver Linings Playbook anytime soon, but I liked it.

I liked American Hustle too, I didn’t love it.  I do love the stars of the film and can’t wait to see all of them in their future projects.  The last Hunger Games with J-Law and hopefully a third collaboration with Bradley Cooper sooner rather than later.  How about another in the Bourne series with Jeremy Renner?  Maybe even bring back Matt Damon?  What a kick ass duo they would make!!   Who knows what Christian Bale will pick next, he loves to mix it up, maybe he won’t have to lose or gain weight for it (AH-fat. The Fighter and Rescue Dawn-emaciated).  Certainly will be exciting to see what the future brings.  While we wait check out American Hustle.  ABSCAM as a  backdrop, goofy hairdos, bad clothes and fantastic performances equals an entertaining couple of hours that won’t leave you disappointed. 

Maria’s Rating:  3.75 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating: 3.5 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.

  

Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook

Published February 11, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, John Ortiz, Julia Stiles, Anupam Kher.

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

There is a definite pattern developing in my personal movie watching experiences.  The movies I really want to see are disappointing the hell out of me (see Flight), and the ones I don’t want to see or just go because Maria wants to see it, end up blowing me away.  Well, you can add Silver Linings Playbook to that list.  I really like Jennifer Lawrence from the Hunger Games, this kid is the real deal, and her turn here is amazing.  But Bradley Cooper carrying a movie?  I didn’t see any shot of that.  The Hangovers, Wedding Crashers, he’s a supporting actor who plays the cocky, good looking douche.  I recently was TOTALLY wrong about the talent of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and now Cooper has me eating my words again.  He plays Pat, a guy freshly released from a mental hospital (I’ll let you find out the reason he was in there, it’s too good to spoil), who must go live with his parents (De Niro and Weaver) because he has nowhere else to go.  Pat is a train wreck and won’t admit it, and soon he meets his female counterpart, the equally damaged Tiffany (Lawrence).  There hasn’t been onscreen chemistry like these two since Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.  While they were so cute together, Cooper and Lawrence are incindiary, but you can’t take your eyes off them.  

Jennifer Lawrence.  She most definitely embodies her Hunger Games character’s image, the girl on fire.  She first appeared on our radar for her Oscar nomination for Best Actress in Winter’s Bone and the girl has not slowed down since.  I just find myself more impressed with each new role she takes on.  Her Golden Globe award winning character in Silver Linings Playbook is so exquisitely executed that I began comparing her flaws as well as her virtues to young women I know in real life, including myself.  Her sense of humor, strength, vulnerability and unapologetic sexuality is palpable, which is why the chemistry between Tiffany and Pat is so tremendous.  Bradley Cooper, you sly dog.  Who knew you weren’t just another pretty face?  I have always loved his portrayal of the juvenile Phil in the Hangovers, but I had no idea he could pull off a role like this with such conviction.  These two lead characters do a fantastic job and they also have a superb seasoned cast surrounding them including De Niro, Weaver and Stiles.  SLP bravely ventures into new territory when examining mental illness.  Especially in the current climate where so many people are trying different medications to aid their illnesses or conditions.  It is quite a feat to be able to address such a sensitive and serious subject with candid humor.  This movie made me laugh out loud on numerous occassions.  And it also made me feel nervous, excited and happy.  I cheered for these two people to find happiness and success.  In fact, I had a vested interest in it.

Bradley Cooper is the revelation of SLP, but the supporting cast doesn’t take a backseat either.  De Niro is perfect as Pat Sr., a reluctant bookie and Philadelphia Eagles fanatic.  I could relate to him on a couple of levels.  First I’m a diehard Patriots fan, so I understood all of his superstitions and fluctuating emotions.  And, having attended the Eagles/Patriots Super Bowl some years back, I’ve witnessed the passion, veracity and uncontrolled behavior of Eagles fans up close.  Also worth noting are Anupam Kher as Pat’s psychiatrist, Dr. Patel.  He turns out to be an Eagles fanatic too, and that makes for a hilarious scene.  A surprisingly subdued Chris Tucker as Danny, a former, fellow patient  and friend of Pat’s, is super in a small role.  And John Ortiz as Pat’s best friend Ronnie , who is seemingly well off and happily married, but is actually broke and miserable, round out a perfect group.  In a side note, Maria and I met Mr. Ortiz in Las Vegas at the premiere party for the short-lived HBO series Luck.  He played a crooked trainer, and he was quite gregarious when we introduced ourselves.  Silver Linings Playbook had me laughing, crying and rooting for all the main characters.  I loved it, and judging by the packed theater a full six weeks after it’s release date, I’d say word of mouth is lively.  Here’s hoping we see Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper on screen together again soon!

I knew from first glance that I recognized John Ortiz, but I assumed it was from some previous role.  I had totally forgotten about the meeting in Vegas.  He was certainly a very gracious star, shaking hands and taking pictures with all the fans.  Surprisingly, as Ross mentioned, the theatre was packed.  We were expecting to be one of the few audience members and found ourselves struggling to find a convenient seat.  SLP was well worth the wait and I’m estactic that we got to view it in the theatre.  It is by far one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time and I was pleased that my company enjoyed it as well.

Ross’ Rating: 5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 4.5 Gummies.