Stanley Tucci

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Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

Published November 24, 2015 by mrsrag


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: 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: Mr. Peabody and Sherman

Published March 12, 2014 by mrsrag

Starring the voices of:  Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter, Allison Janney, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Patrick Warburton, Mel Brooks, Stanley Tucci.

Rated: PG.  Animated/Comedy.  Running Time: 1 hour 42 minutes.

Smart.  Witty.  Furry.  Mr. Peabody is one sharp pup and he lights up the screen in this wonderfully clever tale.  Peabody (Burell) is in jeopardy of losing custody of Sherman (Winter), his adopted human son.  And all because of a total misunderstanding on Sherman’s first day of school.  Well, because of the misunderstanding and also because he was being antagonized by a very mean classmate.  Up until now, Mr. Peabody and Sherman have been living a happy, healthy and quite interesting life together.  Peabody is an advanced canine who can speak – and he speaks quite eloquently.  He is an acclaimed scientist, a Nobel laureate, a gourmet chef, a musician, a business titan and an inventor.  But his favorite role is being a father to his pride and joy, his tiny ginger pal, Sherman.  His most prized invention is a time machine called the WABAC (pronounced “way back”).  He and Sherman time travel in the WABAC and learn all about history.  Peabody is wonderfully charming and he can usually weave his way through any hardship with sheer intelligence and swagger.  But he meets his match in Mrs. Grunion (Janney), the beastly woman from child services who seems Hell bent on taking Sherman away from Mr. Peabody.

Maria, and probably most of you reading this, have never seen the old cartoon version of Mr. Peabody and Sherman.  Part of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, I watched them when I was a little dude in the 70’s and I can attest that screenwriter Craig Wright has brought our heroes to the present day in style.  Mr. Peabody and Sherman followed a theme, pardon the pun, way back then; Sherman would get into mischief and Mr. Peabody would have to bail him out, and I’m happy to report they’ve stuck with what works.  Ty Burrell is terrific as the smartest canine in history (though I had wrongly guessed he was Hugh Laurie, a rare miss), and the Sherlock Holmes-esque scenes of Peabody showing us how he figures his way out of impossible situations in a split second, are pure genius.  If you’ve seen the Robert Downey Jr. versions of Holmes, you know what I mean.  The romp through time is hilarious and educational, the time spent with da Vinci is a personal favorite, but we also run into King Tut, Marie Antoinette, The Trojan Horse and Einstein among others.  The world has never seen anything like Mr. Peabody, now or in the past, and he has a positive effect on all he encounters.  My only concern is that he’s following (a bit too closely perhaps?) the megahit, The Lego Movie.  Hopefully, parents aren’t tapped out from the two or three trips they’ve had to take to the land of interlocking blocks. MPAS is too good though, word of mouth should easily help recoup it’s daunting $120,000,000 production cost.

The Lego Movie was certainly a hard act to follow, but this animated feature should do well.  It’s way too cute and endearing to be overlooked.  And the spruced up animation of yesteryear still echoes a familiarity to its roots, while adding some much needed flair and excitement.  I was extremely impressed with the 3-D effects, which is one of my biggest pet peeves with these animated films.  But MPAS put it to good use with scenes involving the time travelling and Mr. Peabody’s daily shenanigans.  I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, especially because it was smart and very well done.  It maintains its fun and hilarity, while providing some educational anecdotes.  And Mr. Peabody drops a lot of puns, which is one of our favorite sources of amusement.  Ethan had to ask us to explain a few of them, which only benefits his already impressive vocabulary.  I mean, the kid references Stockholm Syndrome.

Retooling old franchises is a Hollywood staple.  But for every Superman there is a Lone Ranger.  Every Batman a Green Hornet.  Every Scooby Doo a Flintstones.  I must admit when I heard about Mr. Peabody and Sherman, I was thinking “there’s a friggin’ train wreck ready to happen”, but it was very well done and I’m happy a whole new generation, or two, will enjoy the adventures through the WABAC machine.  I’m guessing it’s success will lead to a parade of more obscure characters from the 60’s and 70’s being resurrected.  Who might be next?  Snagglepuss.  “Exit, stage left.”   Tennessee Tuxedo and Chumley, the penguin and walrus team always trying to escape from the zoo?  Maybe Top Cat, that wisecracking, streetwise hustler?  Anybody but Woody Woodpecker, that guy always annoyed the shit out of me!     

Maria’s Rating: 3.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating: 3.75 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.


Recent DVD Release: Jack the Giant Slayer

Published July 17, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Ewan McGregor, Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Eddie Marsan, Ewen Bremnar.

Rated: PG-13.  Adventure/Fantasy.  Running Time: 1 hour 54 minutes.


Can’t say I was dying to see this one, but when it showed up in our Redbox, I thought it might be fun to watch with Maria and Ethan.  You know, because he is a PG-13 veteran now.  It started with Jurassic Park in re-release, then on our vacation his sisters had him watching a Jim Carrey marathon of Dumb and Dumber and a couple of Ace Venturas.  I capped that off with Stand by Me, so I figured he could handle some CGI giants, and he did.  This new take on a very old fable was really not so bad.  In this rendition, Jack (Hoult) isn’t so much a boy rube being bilked out of the family cow.  More like an almost grown man with a sense of adventure.  There is a Princess (Tomlinson) injected into the story, and Jack climbs that bean stalk more on a rescue mission for love, than to redeem himself by stealing the Golden Goose.  Also, he is not alone on his climb, as the King (McShane) has sent his best men along.  The highly virtuous and likeable Elmont (McGregor) and the sinister Roderick (Tucci at his evil best) among them.  Finally, Jack doesn’t have to deal with just one giant, but a whole community of them.  By the way, Nicholas Hoult is nearly unrecognizable from the kid who played opposite Hugh Grant in 2002’s About a Boy.  It’s hard to believe that frumpy, chunky kid grew into this tall, good looking man who is dating Jennifer Lawrence.  And if you have never seen it, About a Boy is great!  Rent it or watch it the next time you see it on HBO etc.

Hoult and Lawrence have had an on again, off again love affair since their meeting on X-men First Class, which is where I first sniped him as Marcus from About A Boy.  Recently, I’ve seen the kid everywhere including another film I skipped in the theatre, Warm Bodies.  His lady love has been dominating box offices with her role as Katniss in the Hunger Games trilogy and a critically acclaimed, award winning portrayal of a young widow in Silver Linings Playbook.  Hoult hasn’t seen the same overnight boost of success.  Unfortunately, Jack the Giant Slayer didn’t kill at the box office, but it had some developmental and production hiccups.  The most widespread explanation is the conflict between the director’s darker vision for the film and the studios desire to make it family friendly.  They landed somewhere in the middle with a PG-13 rating, which drastically pigeon holed their target audience.  This indecision greatly affected the final product as well.  I enjoyed it, but it oozed the mediocrity of a compromise.

I didn’t realize they were intending to make this an R-rated horror movie, but now that I do, I can see it for sure.  There were some pretty nasty giant, eating people scenes, that were implied.  Edited down, sans gore no doubt.  Jack the Giant Slayer for the most part kept me entertained, which is an endorsement of sorts in this day of movie making.  A couple performances of note: Ian McShane played the King quite subdued, which is unusual for Ian, and it worked well.  My favorite though was Stanley Tucci’s conscienceless Roderick.  Honestly Tucci has always been one of my favorite actors.  One of the few who can excel at good guy parts as well as bad.  He was SUPER creepy as the serial killer in The Lovely Bones.  A persistent thorn in Tom Hanks’ side in The Terminal.  Fantastic as a budding restaurant owner opposite Tony Shalhoub in Big Night.  And he pulls off gay just fine in The Devil Wears Prada, and to a lesser extent, in the current Hunger Games trilogy.  He really is one of the most underrated actors of this generation.  Final thoughts on JTGS:  Nicholas Hoult has an easy likeability that may just serve him well going forward.  Tucci is Tucci.  And the CGI giants are simultaneously cool and gross.  It’s not going to go down in history as a classic, but spending a $1.27 at Redbox?  You could do worse. 

I agree that it was worth a watch.  My personal favorite was Ewan McGregor’s determined Elmont.  I found the chemistry between him and Jack very genuine.  McGregor has always been one of my favorites and I thought this role was out of his usual comfort zone.  He still emanated his usual trappings of breathless charm and clever wit.  Tucci is great, as always.  And I agree with Ross, this Hoult kid has a promising future, as long as he finds the right vehicle.  He should most definitely take a cue from his gal pal and maybe try the independent film circuit.  Sadly, the film as a whole was riddled with problems that kept it from commercial success.  The MPAA rating was an accurate indicator of what my rating will be…somewhere in the middle.

Ross’ Rating:  2.75 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating:  2.5 Gummies.