Woody Harrelson

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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 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: Seven Psychopaths

Published October 22, 2012 by mrsrag

Starring:  Sam Rockwell, Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson.

Rated R.  Comedy/Crime/Drama.  Running Time: 1 hour 50 minutes.

I’ve tried to pick my favorite psychopath, but it proves quite a task with casting like this.  Just take a peek at the rundown of actors involved in this film listed above.  Walken is always a selling point for me, personally.  Add to that Tom Waits, two beautiful women that you’ll no doubt recognize on screen – if not by their names (Abbie Cornish & Olga Kurylenko) and a special guest appearance by two of my favorite Boardwalk Empire characters, Michael Pitt (the late Jimmy Darmody) and Michael Stuhlbarg (Arnold Rothstein).  Not that casting is a definitive slam dunk in any film, but it helps generate a certain feel for the production at hand.  The vibe you should probably gather from this present selection of characters is a violent one…lots of blood and guts.  Not gore necessarily, but spatter.  Seven Psychopaths had a similar feel to the 2008 critically acclaimed “In Bruges” – and with good reason.  The very same man, Martin McDonagh, wrote and directed both films.  He most certainly has a style, as I had the inkling before we conducted further research.  I would describe McDonagh’s style as intensely dark and brutally humorous.  Nonetheless, even if you don’t like the style of Seven Psychopaths, I can pretty much guarantee you won’t be bored.  The confluence of characters in this film is a trainwreck and you won’t be able to avert your eyes, even if you hope to.

Maria and I have had a run of “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” lately.  First, the same night we watched the movie, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, we caught Louis C.K.’s stand-up act where he talks of his ‘man crush’ on Ewan McGregor.  Now just days after watching the quirky, but entertaining, In Bruges, we went and saw Seven Psychopaths.  Written and directed by the same man McDonagh, as noted by Maria above.  She was indeed all over the similarities between the two movie’s styles, as she pointed it out to me minutes in.  McDonagh loves to put serial killers, murderers and other odd characters in unexpected settings.  And though he certainly doesn’t mind shedding some blood – dialogue and character development are his real strengths.  In Seven Psychopaths, he tells us the story of alcoholic writer Marty (Farrell, who he cast in In Bruges as well), who has a name for a movie and little else.  His good friend, the oddball, struggling actor Billy (played by the always fantastic Rockwell: Green Mile, Cowboys and Aliens et al), has some wonderful suggestions for Marty’s movie and would love to be involved in the writing of the screenplay.  In the meantime Billy and his friend Hans (the legend, Walken) steal people’s dogs to make ends meet, waiting until they put up a reward, then cashing in on the return.  Unfortunately for them, they steal the dog of true criminal psychopath, Charlie (Harrelson), who loves his dog more than any human being.  As you may guess, it’s at this point that the Shih Tzu really hits the fan.

Fantastic pun sweetheart.  One of my favorite things about this plot is that it kind of follows the evolution of Marty’s screenplay.  McDonagh cleverly intertwines the development of the screenplay with the unfolding story that his viewers watch on screen.  We don’t want to give anything away, as there are some interesting twists and turns.  However, suffice it to say that this plot line is engaging, groundbreaking and drastically original.  Seven Psychopaths and In Bruges are similar in style, but the themes and colorful storylines are brilliantly diverse.  The longer removed from viewing the movie, the more impressed I was with its composition.  It certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but you have to give credit where credit’s due.  Seven Psychopaths is refreshing and a pleasure to watch.  Especially in the present movie business where recycling and reinventing old ideas is the new trend.

I agree with you on several points.  Martin McDonagh’s writing is a breath of fresh air of originality, in a predominantly unoriginal time for movies.  Also, we have to be careful what we divulge about the plot, it would be easy to say too much.  And, the more I think about Seven Psychopaths, the more I like it.  I would add that I think it’s the kind of movie that should be seen again, perhaps when it comes out on DVD.  The things you know the second time around will give you clarity from the opening scenes through the end.  Not exact comparisons for sure, but The Usual Suspects and The Sixth Sense could be examples of the point I’m trying to make.   Time will tell if Seven Psychopaths can be mentioned in the same breath as those two classics.  But the exquisite acting by the four lead actors, coupled with superb writing, give it the feel to me of a movie that will get even better with age.  

Calling all psychopaths…

Ross’ Rating: 4 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 4 Gummies.