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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Josh Hutcherson

The Disaster Artist (2017)

Good story, Mark!

Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) is just another young kid looking to become an actor. His dreams seem as if they’re finally going to be fulfilled too, when he meets the strange, mysterious, and downright weird Tommy Wiseau (James Franco). While the two are no doubt opposites, they hit it off because of their willingness to chase the American Dream of Hollywood, fame and fortune. It also helps that Wiseau has a place he calls home in L.A., so they move there and start trying to do what they can to break in the biz. For Greg, because he’s so young, fresh and good-looking, he gets small bits and roles in stuff, whereas Tommy doesn’t. He’s too weird and crazy to really work for most casting-agents and it’s why he decides to just say screw it all and make a movie himself. This then creates the Room, one of the most beloved and strange cult flicks that’s so bad, so ridiculous, and so out-of-this-world, guess what? It’s actually good. However, behind-the-scenes, nobody knew what the hell was going on, where Tommy was getting all of this money, why he was acting like such a freak, where he came from, and oh yeah, how the hell old he was, too. Basically, it all just revolved around Tommy being Tommy.

“I did naaaht.”

The Disaster Artist is one of those breezy, light-as-a-feather biopics that doesn’t get as deep as it should, but still works. Why? All about the source-material, baby! If you’ve ever seen the Room, know who Greg Sestero or Tommy Wiseau are, then yes, this will most likely all work for you. The movie, as directed by James Franco and written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, is meant to please those undying and adoring fans of the cult-classic, while also attempting to bring possible interested-parties to just who the hell these people are, what the movie they’re making is, and/or better yet, why so many people love it.

In fact, the Disaster Artist itself doesn’t set out to answer all of the questions it raises and in a way, it’s better than most biopics because of that. It doesn’t feel the need to harp on something, or try to jam it all in – it gives us the characters, their backstories, their plot, their conflicts, and basically just runs with it all. Sure, the real lives of Sestero and Wiseau may be way more intriguing and odd than what we get here, but the movie doesn’t feel as if it has to be over two-hours to really get its job done.

Just a little over an-hour-and-a-half, honestly, is fine enough.

And it’s why, as a director and actor, James Franco does a pretty great job here. Despite him having made nearly six or seven movies in the past few years, none of them have really been all that good; they’re slow, meandering, pretentious and, despite the star-quality attached, a waste of some prime talent who are clearly just doing favors for a seemingly good guy. Here though, it seems like Franco’s at least somewhat poised to avenge himself as both an actor and director, because he doesn’t harp too much on the material – he gives us the funny stuff, the drama, and the characters that matter.

Bros love throwing that pig-skin.

And oh yeah, he also does a pretty great Wiseau which, all things considering, is pretty hard to pull-off, especially for someone as good-looking, tall, and recognizable as Franco. But Franco gets the cadences down perfectly, from the randomly slurred-speech, to the odd laughing and giggling in-between clever-phrases, that make this guy a delight to watch. He also doesn’t forget to show us the true dark and odd nature behind this guy, like where all of his money comes from, why he’s such a control-freak, and the idea that he may be a bit of a sexist asshole who, like most frat-boys, just wants to see boobs and be able to touch them. Once again, the movie doesn’t go nearly as deep as it probably should have into Wiseau, but Franco scratches enough of the surface to where it’s all fine and dandy.

After all, the movie’s so damn entertaining, you’ll soon forget about all of that stuff and it’s kind of the point.

The Disaster Artist makes it clear very early-on that no matter how awful the end-result turned out to be, the Room was absolutely what Wiseau and those involved wanted it to be: A stepping-stone to some sort of infamy. It’s what Sestero and Wiseau themselves have absolutely wanted and while what they really did, in certain situations portrayed throughout the movie, can be held-up to scrutiny, there’s no denying the fact that the movie they made, together, or apart, turned out to be something quite legendary. And the movie of its inception and ultimate creation, while not nearly as legendary, is still entertaining enough to remind us of the fun and the appeal.

If that’s even the right word.

Consensus: With a fun, light, and breezy direction, the Disaster Artist proves to be an entertaining and somewhat insightful look into the life of Tommy Wiseau, and a solid reminder that Franco’s got the goods to pull double-duty as actor and director, in an effective manner.

7 / 10

Gotta get the right shot for whatever the hell they’re doing.

Photos Courtesy of: A24

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015)

Another YA adaptation down, plenty more to go.

After she was attacked by a brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Katnis Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is fed up and ready to take action against President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Meaning, that it’s time for war to get going and it’s going to be Katnis the one spearheading it. And once again, it becomes clear that a lot of what Katnis does or says, is all planned out from the beginning with Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) constantly working behind the scenes, testing and working with every maneuver Katnis takes. Regardless though, there is a war to be fought, which leads Katnis, as well as the rest of her trusted soldiers for the cause, to head straight to District 2 and then the Capitol itself for one last fight to take down Snow and his tyrannical reign. However, as expected, Snow is more than up to the task of taking on this band of soldiers, while also proving that he may be the more powerful force after all. But there’s also something else that’s a bit fishy about this situation and it has less to do with Snow, as much as it may have to do with those that Katnis aligns herself with in the first place.

Will miss him.

Will miss him.

Finally, after three years, four movies, and plenty of money, the Hunger Games film franchise is coming to an end. In ways, it’s kind of bittersweet; while none of the films have ever astounded me, they’ve been plenty better than all those other young adult novel adaptations that come out every few months or so. Granted, considering the company that’s kept in that genre, that may not be saying much, but still, it’s worth noting that each and everyone of these movies have all done some neat, interesting things with a plot and source material that could have easily been the most melodramatic, boring piece of crud since Bella and Edward started hookin’ up in the forest.

Still, what makes the Hunger Games, the franchise, so special, is that it’s the kind of YA adaptation that plenty of people can actually enjoy. Of course, the target audience for this will continue to devour and adore it until the day they die, but so many other people, who may not think that this is “their thing”, may find something to be interested by here. There’s the romance for all the screaming fan-girls in the crowd; there’s the violence for the boyfriends who get dragged to them; there’s the high-production values for the film-fanatics; and most importantly, there’s political messages and ideas for those who still believe that we’re being spied on by the government, at this very second.

They’re not wrong, but still.

And with Mockingjay – Part 2, it really does feel like, not just the end, but the greatest hits of what this story had to offer, but seemed to lose sight of over the past two movies. All of the elements that have made the past films work, are still here, but now, there’s so much more emotion, so much more power, and most of all, so much more feeling that has you realize, “Holy hell. This truly is the last time we may ever see these characters on the screen again.” It’s definitely the same feeling everyone had watching Deathly Hallows – Part 2, as well as most other finales, but here, it feels done just right.

There’s a greater deal of suspense and tension in the air, which definitely helps this movie out. Though I haven’t read any of the books (I actually tried and then I picked up a copy of the Corrections and the rest is, as they say, history), it’s pretty simple and easy to predict just who’s going to survive by the end of the movies, and who is going to bite the dust. Here, however, because this is the last movie, there’s a sense in the air that we don’t know who’s going to live, who’s going to die, and just who’s life is going to be completely ruined forever.

Even way after the credits end.

This is all some incredibly grim and bleak stuff that the movie’s dealing with, but it all surprisingly works with the rest of the tone. Everything before Katnis and her fellow soldiers get out onto the war-field, everything’s slow, meandering and plodding, to say the least; in fact, it had me worried that we were just getting left-over scenes from Part 1, which, in and of itself, was already a pretty lame movie, so why would I want to be reminded of it? But after all of the emotions are exchanged, the guns start coming out, explosions start happening, and characters, well-developed or not, believe it or not, start dropping like flies. There’s characters you may expect to perish, whereas there may be some you don’t – either way, it’s hard not to watch when these characters are all getting themselves into more and more dangerous situations as they parade along to find and kill Snow.

Will kind of, sort of, maybe miss him.

Will kind of, sort of, maybe miss him.

It’s all action-packed, of course, but it’s also incredibly compelling that makes you feel something for these characters probably more so than before. Katnis is, as usual, a bad-ass, but here, we really do get a chance to see her true personality, heart and soul shine; so much has been made in the past two movies where Katnis is, basically, just an image and nothing else. However, with her fourth-outing as Katnis, Jennifer Lawrence shows that she’s still able to find some new ways to breath fresh life into this character. Does she seem a bit bored? Yeah.

But I guess that’s what happens when you’re the highest-paid actress in Hollywood.

And everybody else is fine, too. The ensemble here is so stacked by now that, honestly, it feels like a shame they aren’t all given monologues to deliver and run rampant with, but so be it. In any other film, this cast would have absolutely made any movie a near-masterpiece, but because this is a Hunger Games movie, it’s less about them, and more about the spectacle.

Which, like I’ve said before, isn’t a bad thing. These movies, especially this one, have all done great jobs at balancing-out all the different aspects it takes to make this story interesting to watch and think about. The last-half of this movie definitely deals with that in a smart, but nearly shocking way that’s sure to surprise a whole lot of people who don’t know what to expect. But still, it works because the world that this movie has created, right from the very get-go, is one that may look all bright and shiny from the outside, but once you dig a bit deeper, is downright sadistic and disturbing. Such is the case with the real world, too, I guess.

But hey, we’ll miss you Katnis.

*Whistle-salute sound*

Consensus: Surprisingly grim, exciting and most of all, emotional, Mockingjay – Part 2 isn’t just the final installment of the franchise, but also the best one, proving just what sorts of wonders it was able to work, despite the target audience and what’s generally expected of stories such as these.

8 / 10

And, oh yeah. Will totes miss her.

And, oh yeah. Will totes miss her.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

American Splendor (2003)

Believe it or not, Stan Lee isn’t the only guy who writes comics.

Harvey Pekar (Paul Giamatti) works a dead-end job as a file clerk, his second wife leaves him, and he has a debilitating vocal impediment. The two things that keep him going are his collections of jazz records and comic books. After becoming friends with animator Robert Crumb (James Urbaniak), Harvey finds himself inspired enough to write his own type of comic book, which turn out to be just the depressing, yet amusing accounts of his everyday life.

Whenever people hear of a comic book movie being made, they automatically shoot their minds to Marvel and think of names like Iron Man, or the Hulk, or Captain America, or whoever gets the next big-screen adaptation. But hardly do we ever get to see the sort of comic book movies that are made for people who could care less about superheros and all of those wonderful tales of fantasy. Sometimes, comic books have the opportunity to hit closer to home and it’s this fact, this reality that American Splendor hits hard each and every second it gets.

He's perfect.

He’s perfect.

Of course, in a bit more depressed manner, but still. It’s a little more refreshing than watching another Marvel flick.

Co-writers and directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini know that they’re working with simple material here, so it makes sense that they’d add a little comic book touch to the look and make it feel as if we are looking at an actual comic book on the screen. It doesn’t happen all of the time, because that would just get gimmicky after awhile, but the way they do use it when needed, works and puts you in the mind-set of how this guy looked at the world through his own eyes.

But the style isn’t just what works, as there’s a whole lot of interesting scenes where we actually see the real Harvey Pekar early on, through interviews, and even see all of the other real people in his life as well, show up every once and awhile. It’s a bit surreal at first, considering we are essentially watching a movie about the real life story of these people, they know it, and are standing there just giving their input when needed. It’s definitely weird, but after awhile, seems pretty cool as it looks like Berman and Pulcini both wanted to keep this story as close to the real thing as possible, so what better way than having the real people themselves, you know?

Honestly though, American Splendor is as interesting as it is, all because of the subject at the center: Harvey Pekar. There’s no way of dancing around that fact.

What’s interesting about Pekar is that, other than the fact that he’s a pretty miserable dude, there’s a lot more to him than just that. Does he know it? Not really, but that’s where the intrigue is; while everybody looks at him as a lovable, self-loathsome loner, he doesn’t even know it, think about it, or better yet, give a hoot. This is especially evident in how he describes his comic book creations, the stories he writes about, and how he allows them to approach life, the way in which he sees it. To him, it’s just his own thoughts and opinions getting scribbled onto a piece of paper – whether hundreds of people see it or not, is totally their call.

But then, what makes Pekar even more of engaging figure here is that he’s played by the one and only Paul Giamatti himself. Once again, Giamatti seems to be playing his “kvetching, neurotic Jewish guy”-role as we usually see in his films, but there’s more to that than just being a miserable sad-sack. Pekar seems like the perfect role for Giamatti cause not only does the guy have a general distaste for a lot of what happens throughout his day, but when he starts to realize the happiness that’s out there, it’s very nice to see and Giamatti handles it so well. In fact, when Pekar himself shows up on-screen, it’s almost hard to tell them totally apart. Whatever Giamatti himself had to do to prepare for this role, clearly paid-off as he got down every mannerism that Pekar has, wonderfully.

She's perfect.

She’s perfect.

Though, there is more going on here than just Giamatti’s great portrayal of Pekar, as Hope Davis does a charming job as Pekar’s third wife, Joyce Brabner. Because the real-life couple of Joyce and Harvey is so odd and unique in its smallest details, Davis and Giamatti must have really had to be hard-at-work to ensure that they got everything down perfectly between the two; not just when they’re together on-screen, but how their own respective characters grow throughout the movie. Cause obviously, they are their own person, but together, they feel oh so perfectly united, that it’s hard to imagine either one of their miserable selves being with anybody else.

Basically, they were stuck together, forever. Till death did them part and I couldn’t had been any happier for them.

So if anything, American Splendor not only serves a fine send-up of all the superhero/comic book movies that seem to flood the airwaves everywhere you look nowadays, but a touching tribute to the legend of Harvey Pekar. While some may have a problem with the fact he was so ticked-off and angry for no apparent reasons whatsoever, there’s still some hope and humanity to be found in that. Cause as hard as it may be to stay happy all throughout your life, it must be even more incredibly difficult to stay as mad, either.

So here’s to you, Harvey. Rest well. And smile for a damn change!

Consensus: Though it has style to boot, what makes American Splendor so lovely is how it approaches life the same way as Harvey Pekar himself did: Not quite sure what to make of it, but couldn’t wait to find out, even if the results didn’t always make him the happiest bee in the hive.

8.5 / 10

Together, match made in heaven.

Together, match made in heaven.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Escobar: Paradise Lost (2015)

I thought Vinny Chase already did this movie?

Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar (Benicio Del Toro) was known for committing many terrible acts in his life and sometimes, those who were closest to him were the ones who were on the receiving end of these said acts. One person who is about to find this out, up close and personal, is Canadian surfer bro Nick Brady (Josh Hutcherson). After he and his brother (Brady Corbet) are hassled endlessly by locals for using their land as a place to rest, Nick starts to date Escobar’s niece, who then invites him to meet her infamous uncle. Though Nick doesn’t know what to make of this larger-than-life figure that is Pablo Escobar, the two end up striking something of a friendship; with Escobar even going so far as to call Nick “a son of his”. While Nick is happy to receive this sort of treatment from Escobar, he knows that his true home is Canada and he wants to go back to it, however, little does he knows that when you’re with Pablo Escobar, you can never leave. And even if you do try to, good luck, because he will find you, hunt you down, and make sure you lose all those who are close to you.

He's just kindly saying, "Hello." No need to fret.

He’s just kindly saying, “Hello.” No need to fret.

While a lot of Paradise Lost has been advertised with Del Toro’s name and face pushed to the center, it’s actually the opposite when you look at the final product of the movie itself. Sure, Del Toro is in this movie plenty of times, getting his moments to shine and menace as the role he’s always been born to play, Pablo Escobar, however, it’s clearly Josh Hutcherson’s movie. That’s not to say that Hutcherson acts out Del Toro, but that is to say that Hutcherson’s character is clearly the main protagonist here that we spend an awful bunch of time with, getting to know, understand, and see as he gets himself out of whatever terrible situation he’s thrown into.

And you know what? I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Hutcherson himself is actually very good in the lead role as the fictionalized Nick Brady; while I’ve been fine with his performances in the past, from here on out, I remain forever confidante that he can hold his own. Because the Hunger Games franchise is coming to an end, it’s time for Hutcherson to grow into his own as not only an actor, but as a man who is capable of handling adult-like roles. Here, as Nick Brady, he gets many opportunities to do so and it works quite well, especially considering the fact that a lot of what this Brady character goes through, can seem somewhat repetitive and boring.

While he does start off as something of a squeaky clean, overall good guy, Brady’s eventually taken down several dark paths that mostly question his sense of humanity. The actions that he’s called onto commit, are not only heinous, but quite surprising, and it’s interesting to see how this character handles each and everyone that’s thrown at him; while he doesn’t want to necessarily deny these choices he has to make, Brady is still wondering just how he can get by these decisions, and still keep a sense of dignity within himself. Slowly but surely, though, Brady starts to change in front of our own very eyes, and it’s very intriguing to watch coming from Hutcherson – someone who is so used to being seen as “a kid”, is now able to fully grow-up as a desperate, tough and unpredictable person.

And yes, Del Toro is good, too. But once again, it’s Hutcherson’s movie, and it all works, even if may piss-off those who were looking to see a movie where Pablo Escobar commits all sorts of dastardly actions.

Looks like Peeta finally escaped and has been hanging out with Johnny Utah.

Looks like Peeta finally escaped and has been hanging out with Johnny Utah.

Although we do get to see some of these actions, or better yet, the after-effects of them, writer/director Andrea di Stefano is more concerned with the plot itself and it shows. Not only does di Stefano know how to create tension, but he knows how to settle it all in a way that’s effective, as well as smart; it is, at one point, a social tale about all that Escobar did to Colombia and those who worked with him, but it’s also a compelling thriller. It goes down certain alleys you don’t see coming, but they also don’t feel cheap, either – they just add more danger to this tale than ever before and it allows the stakes to continue to rise, even if you know how it all ends for Escobar himself.

But then, at the end of the movie, there’s an odd feeling of wondering: What was the point of all that? Sure, we got to see how one character got so sucked into Escobar’s personality, that he was also the one who had to break away from it as soon as he realized he was in harm’s way, but other than that, is there anything else?

Hate to say it, but not really.

Maybe that’s exactly what di Stefano wanted to deliver on – a thriller of sorts – but it also feels like a missed opportunity to go deeper. Heck, having Del Toro around to play Pablo Escobar is already enough promise as is, so why not try to capitalize on it a bit more? The angle of focusing on Nick Brady was interesting, yes, but it also makes it feel very simple and easy, especially given the fact that this movie could have focused on so many more elements at play in this real life story.

Then again, the movie does cover a whole lot more ground that Entourage ever did in their third season, so I guess there is something to be said for that. And maybe, it’s just a case of me complaining about nothing just for the sake of doing so, but when your movie turns into a Colombian-version of Behind Enemy Lines, there’s a part of me that feels like maybe a few other angles could have been taken. Even if, you know, the angle they took worked as it was.

Consensus: Even if Del Toro isn’t around as much as Pablo Escobar, Paradise Lost is still a solid-enough thriller to be gripped by, especially due to the fact that Josh Hutcherson brings his A-game as well.

7.5 / 10

Can never trust a dude who rocks a 'stache that awesomely.

Can never trust a dude who rocks a ‘stache that awesomely.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

Bows and arrows are the ultimate weapons for rebellion. Guns are better, but hey, you work with what you’ve got.

After the tragic events of the second Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is, once again, left in total and complete shock. However, she’s not alone, as she was soon taken in by the rebellious District 13 and given the task to fight back against the malicious Capital, and its evil leader, President Snow (Donald Sutherland). And although Katniss is more than happy to fight back and get whatever revenge she can get on Snow and his legions of soldiers, there’s a couple problems holding her back. For one, District 13’s president, Coin (Julianne Moore), and her trusted lackey, Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman), not only want her to stand high and tall with District 13, but even be seen as the face of the new rebellion that will hopefully inspire many others to stand up against Snow and his regime. Also, after the last Hunger Games, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) was kidnapped and taken in by the Capitol, who seems to be using him as a way to coax Katniss into just putting down her bows and giving up. Katniss wants to, so as to not hurt Peeta even more, but the problem is that she’s not the one fully in control – others are and it begins to show.

It’s safe to say that, by now, the Hunger Games film franchise has been pretty successful. Not just in terms of its box-office success, but also with those pretentious, unhappy human specimens we know as critics. Meaning, that it was only just a matter of time until one of these films, as it only takes one, had to screw it up for the rest.

And it’s quite fitting that it just so happens to be the first part of a movie that didn’t need to even have a first part to begin with.

Is this a symbolic passing of the torch?

Is this a symbolic passing of the torch? Say it ain’t so, J-Moore!

Trust me, too, this is coming from a guy who has never read a single page of one of these books; Hollywood thinks that since they have a cash-cow on their hands, that they should try their hardest and pan the movies out for as long as they can, as only a way to reel in more and more dough. They did it with the Harry Potter franchise, they did with those terrible Twilight movies, and heck, they were even thinking about doing it for the Hobbit movies, that is until somebody actually wised up and realized that it’s probably not the best decision to push that franchise any longer than it needed to be, especially considering that it’s all made from one single book. Just one, people! So why the hell did there need to be three, freakin’ movies at all?!?!

Anyway, like I was saying, here with Mockingjay – Part 1, it’s obvious that the powers that be behind it, wanted it to just go on for as long as it could, so long so as it all built-up to what would hopefully be the ultimate finale for this franchise next year, and it shows. That’s not to say all of the movie is bad, but when you have a film that goes on for so long which is, quite frankly, is pretty solid up to a point, and it just ends, it not only feels abrupt, but pretty disappointing. You can tell that, if they really wanted to with these movies, they could have made just one, three-hour epic that would, hopefully, put the bow-tie on the franchise once and for all. But nope, when big-wig, hot-shot Hollywood executives see dollar-signs, they can’t help themselves one bit.

Sort of like how I am in Dunkin’ Donuts. Only one, I promise myself, and then, a dozen doughnuts later, I’m wondering just what the hell happened to me and my thought-process. It’s a bad analogy, I know, but it’s all I got to work with, people, so bare with me please.

But to get a bit away from the whole problem with this movie being unnecessary in the first place, I think it’s best to just dive right into what made it so good to begin with and, therefore, made the abrupt ending all the more enraging. See, what’s interesting about this flick, is that while it’s clear that it has the biggest budget in the world and can practically do whatever it wants, wherever it wants, and with whomever it wants to, for some reason, Mockingjay – Part 1 has a very limited-scope which, dare I say it, makes it feel almost claustrophobic. Hardly do we ever get to see what’s going on/around the world of Panem and in these other districts, outside of maybe a TV monitor or through of what somebody says.

A perfect example of this is a very terrifying sequence in which District 13 gets attacked by the Capitol, leaving everybody inside scrambling, running, and trying to find any shelter that they can. While this is all going on, we hear the explosions hitting District 13 and we see the effect it has on the base from the inside, but we never see what’s exactly going on outside; what we see and hear, are just enough to scare us into an oblivion and have us expecting the worst, but hoping for the best. It’s a well-done sequence that I kept on thinking about the most after I saw the movie, because it pretty much puts the rest of the movie into perspective: We are thrown into this tiny, nearly suffocating world and we can’t get out of it. We’re along for the ride with Katniss, even if that does, or doesn’t take her anywhere special.

Speaking of Katniss, once again, Jennifer Lawrence is great in this role and allows Katniss to be strong, smart, and also, humane. She hardly does something for her own self-interest and it makes us sympathize with her a lot more, even if she is playing with both Gale and Peeta’s hearts like a person putting a carrot in front of a rabbit on a treadmill. Still, she’s good to watch and brings a lot of development to a character that could have easily been just another little, whiny teenager who can’t decide if he loves me, or loves me not.

I'll take a nice, little Boogie Nights reunion any day.

I’ll take a nice, little Boogie Nights reunion any day.

Another interesting aspect to this story is that it plays around with the ideas of propaganda and how the use of it, if effective, can really drive people to do something, whether it be fighting for a cause, or just changing a certain lifestyle of theirs. Here, we get to see Katniss be constantly taken to all of these different Districts, where everybody is either dead, dying, or just bones underneath pieces of rubble. The way we’re supposed to feel about these tragic occurrences is supposed to be sadness, but because we know Katniss is being taken to these certain spots, only so that they can film her and show the rest of the world why her cause is worth standing behind, puts a slight comedic-twist on it. A dark one, but a comedic-twist nonetheless in a movie which totally needed a lot more.

This is where the likes of new recruits Julianne Moore, Natalie Dormer, pleasant returners Jeffrey Wright, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman all bring their own level of depth to a story that deserves it. It’ll be interesting to see where the next film takes these certain characters, because while it’s easy to fall for Peeta, Katniss, and Gale, the older, much more established presences in these films are mostly what keeps the heart of these movies running. Not to hate on what Lawrence, Hutcherson, or Hemsworth do with their own respective characters, but if I had to, I’d watch a scene containing just Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, and Jeffrey Wright, all sitting around in a room, talking about whatever was on their mind next.

Obviously that’s virtually impossible now, but what a treasure it would be.

But, like I said, while the ideas and themes this movie toggles around with may be interesting, and a hell of a lot more thought-provoking than we all get with half of the YA adaptations out there, there’s still that feeling that this movie is build-up, and hardly anything more. Director Francis Lawrence gives this movie a tone that’s dark, creepy, and slightly sinister, but the way in how the movie ends, just puts everything into perspective: This is all leading up to something a lot bigger and more epic.

See you next year, folks. Let’s hope that this is actually the end.

Consensus: Thought-provoking without being ham-fisted, exciting without being manipulative, and well-acted without ever focusing on one character more than the other, the Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 works for so long, all up until it abruptly ends, leaving us maybe ready for the next, but also disappointed that there had to be two parts in the first place.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Basically, everybody loves J-Law. Fin.

Basically, everybody loves J-Law. Fin.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Peeta and Katniss: This generation’s Jack and Rose. It’s true, and you know it.

After winning the 74th Hunger Games, due to a con in which they were both going to kill themselves in a full-on act of rebellion, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark (Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson) finally get all settled back into real life, while also being paraded around along with the upper-class, for their upcoming Victors tour. However, as much as they may embrace the glitz and the glamour of this new life, Katniss still has problems fully accepting what it was that she had to do to get in this position. As she struggles with this, Peeta is there to comfort her whenever she needs some the most, much to Gale’s (Liam Hemsworth) dismay. While everything seems to be going along all fine and dandy without much of a hitch, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) senses a rebellion within the districts that support Katniss’s rebellious spirit and words, enabling him to throw on a new rule for these next Hunger Games in which anybody, past winners included, can now be eligible for the contest. Meaning that Katniss and Peeta are now being thrown to the wolves, with the hopes that they may actually die, however, the two have a little bit more tricks up their sleeves that won’t allow themselves to go down so easily. Or, let’s at least hope so.

By the way, that IS Thor's little bro.

By the way, that IS Thor’s little bro.

The first Hunger Games movie shocked me in ways I didn’t expect it to. Before most of you out there star to stand up and yell, “BLASPHEMY!!”, at the top of your lungs, let me remind you that this was in fact the world in which Twilight still reigned supreme, and gave us the idea that all young adult novel-adaptations were to be sappy, overly-dramatic and boring love stories about moping teenage vampires and werewolves. So yeah, that’s why the shock hit me so hard. Despite its very interesting premise, the movie had a lot of baggage going into it, but coming out of it was a totally different story. Wasn’t perfect by any means, I’ll say that much, but it was a sign that the younger-generation of tweens may actually love and behold something, that is the least bit credible.

And with this sequel, that point is only proven more truthful.

The hard task that this sequel has to carry is that it has to not just tell the story, but continue to move it along as more subplots, characters and ideas are coming in by-the-minute, while also still giving the audience the goods in terms of tension. There’s a lot more going on here than what I presented up-top in that synopsis, and while some of it does seem to be a bit of an over-haul at times, director Francis Lawrence surprisingly keeps things smart, determined and compelling, even when you can tell that the run-time could have been chopped-down a bit. Gary Ross was a surprisingly perfect choice for the first movie, and Lawrence, while not necessarily doing anything flashy or out-of-this-world with his direction, shows that he’s able to transport himself into this alternate universe, where apparently all sorts of bad stuff is happening, behind and in front of the scenes.

That’s why, despite this one definitely being more bloated than the first movie, the story still works in grabbing you by the throat and taking you along for the ride. It’s been quite some time since the last time I ventured out into Panem, and needless to say, I’m surprised by how much of it I missed. There’s definitely a slew of timely-messages about “we vs. us”, and countless uprisings occurring within the lower-class that will ruffle a few feathers, and more than likely go over the heads of the target-demographic, but it never felt like it was preachy or over-bearing. It tells its story, pulls no punches and keeps the tension moving, while all sorts of other strands within this story enter, and leave at the drop of a hat.

But that’s where most of my problems with this movie came from, hence why I don’t think it’s as good as the first. See, while that movie was getting us introduced into this world, the mechanics of the Hunger Games and why it all matters, this movie doesn’t necessarily have to do that, yet, feels the need to up the stakes in a way that works for a short while, until the actual stakes are shown to us and go down with a whimper. Maybe the novelty of watching these people go head-to-head with one another in as bloody of a battle-to-the-death as you can get in a PG-13 movie, is sort of lost with what we saw in the last movie, but here, the Hunger Games felt like they were maybe just a bit too crazy for their own good.

Once again, I get that the story shows why the Hunger Games are changed up now, and why there’s more risk to be had, but something still didn’t feel right with them being so amped-up to the point of near-craziness. Don’t know if all of these higher-stakes were in the original book, or just added into the script, but after awhile, it started to take its toll on the actual proceedings of the Games themselves, and made me wonder when I was actually going to start to feel like I was once again, apart of this world. Took me awhile to get back into it, but once those final five minutes or so came up and went by, thankfully, I was brought back into realizing why this story, these characters and all of these emotions mattered.

Basically, what I am trying to say is that I am pretty damn ready for these next two installments, and here’s to hoping that they do what this one did, while also reminding us why the first one was such a huge surprise to begin with. May be asking a bit too much, but hey, what can I say?

I’m a movie critic/lover, dammit! I got needs!

Smile a bit. Peeta! You're next to Elizabeth Banks! Lord knows I'd be!

Smile a bit. Peeta! You’re next to Elizabeth Banks! Lord knows I’d be!

At the center of all this nuttiness is in fact Jennifer Lawrence who, despite the whole annoying obsession the media has with her daily-life, still gives us a stellar performance as Katniss Everdeen, but in a different matter this time around that works for her, than against her. See, ever since the last movie, J-Law has done a couple of cool things (scratch House at the End of the Street off that list), but the most notable one has to be her winning an Oscar last year, beating-out some heavy and stiff competition. She deserved it, that’s for sure, however, she was playing a more adult-role in Silver Linings Playbook, which made me wonder if I’d be able to still accept her as the young, brass and tough teen-like heroine, but in her own way, I was able to, if not more so than before. Lawrence gives Katniss more rage this time around, while also showing us that this gal means well. However, if there’s anybody to stick her middle-finger up to the man, it’s definitely her, and Lawrence’s performance never lets us forget that. Good on her part.

And while Josh Hutcherson isn’t really breaking-down-barriers with his performance as Peeta, the guy’s still charming and sweet enough to win all of our hearts over, just as much as it’s supposed to be winning over Katniss’. I don’t yet buy into their whole “love thing” they got going on, but hopefully with time. Even Liam Hemsworth isn’t doing anything special here as Gale, but he has more to do here than he did in the last movie, and he makes enough use of it to not totally be thrown to the side. However, both actors seem like window-dressing compared to Sam Claflin as former winner Finnick Odair, because not only does the dude just reek of charm, but he’s also got some pretty sexy and fiery chemistry going on with Lawrence which, hopefully, plays out to be much bigger and much-more developed later on. Once again, I don’t know because I didn’t read the books, so it’s all just pure speculation.

As for the rest of the star-studded cast that’s returning, they all do fine, especially with some new and fresh faces thrown in there for good measure as well. Woody Harrelson shows sympathy, but also a hard-edge as Haymitch; Elizabeth Banks finds an ounce of heart and humanity that digs past the outlandish outfits and wigs she wears, as the 80’s-looking glam-queen, Effie Trinket; Stanley Tucci is having a whole bunch of fun just yucking it up as Hunger Games host Caesar Flickerman; and Donald Sutherland is delightfully evil and nasty as President Snow, the type of dude that we don’t ever want to see as a leader of our own country, yet, can’t help but picture in full-detail as holding that position. As for the newcomers: Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer, despite being such a strange addition to this franchise, fit perfectly as the nerdy, electronically-advanced competitors of the Hunger Games that have the brains, instead of the muscles; Jena Malone is incredibly sexy, feisty and fun whenever she’s on-screen and steals the show, just about every time; and last, but certainly not least, we have Philip Seymour Hoffman as the new game-maker Plutarch Heavensbee, who, oddly enough, fits perfectly into this world despite having no signature outfit, wig, color, or even a look, he’s just an ordinary, simple guy that down-plays everything he says, giving you the impression that he’s a guy you don’t know if you can quite pin-point to be good, or bad. I’ll leave it at that. See ya next year!

Consensus: The novelty of not knowing what to expect from the first one may make sense as to why this sequel pales a bit in-comparison. However, that is not something that hurts Catching Fire‘s chances of winning over its demographic, while also ushering in some new watchers, as it continues to show us why this story and these characters matter now, and why we should keep our eyes peeled for what happens in the next two movies. Mockingjay parts uno and dos, here we come!

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Barking up the wrong tree, bud. Or maybe the right one? Oooh! Spicy!

Sweatin’ all over just thinking about it! Rawr!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Epic (2013)

I always knew those insects I squished had a home to go back to.

A young, rebellious teen, M.K. (Amanda Seyfried), thinks she has it all and doesn’t need to be bossed-around by anybody anymore. Well, her whole reality gets shrunk down to size, and I mean that in the most literal way possible. After getting some sort of spell thrown upon her, she is shrunk down to the size of a leaf, and finds herself embedded in this whole new world filled with mystical, magic creatures that have lives of their own. These “things” she aligns herself with are called Leafmen, and are currently in the middle of a war between what is good and what is bad, against the evil and despicable Boggans (Christoph Waltz).

Don’t know how I found myself in the theater watching this, but one thing lead to another, and I eventually found myself plopped-down in a seat, surrounded by a bunch of families, with screaming kids, and pissed-off mommies and daddies (mostly daddies). Then, of course, there was me, the 19-year-old who just sat there, hanging out, doing my movie-reviewing thing (sitting there with either my arms folded, or, pulling off the “thinking man” look), and surprisingly had a good time. Was I surprised? Ehh, not totally, but considering where animation has been going these days, I felt like it was a nice breath of fresh air to remind me that you don’t need to do something new, cool, or original to work. And hell, you sure as hell don’t have to be riding the coat-tails of Pixar with every damn move neither, but what you really have to do is just have a good time with yourself and others will eventually join in on the fun as well. Eventually.

Movie's message: dads are soooo lame.

Something tells me that these two are going to have those same faces for the rest of their lives together.

I will say that, for the most part, the movie did take awhile of getting used to. There were parts of this story that seemed way, way too FernGully-ish, and certain parts that seemed like they were trying way, way too hard to be funny. For instance, the dad is always fumbling over his papers and books because of these “creatures” he’s looking for, the dog’s name is Ozzy, and he also happens to be three-legged, and there’s a bunch of talking-slugs that like to say witty, adult-like things. It all seemed like it was trying a bit too hard for me and I felt like if this was how the rest of the flick was going to be, I was going to have to leave early and find out what the hell else there is to do with the rest of my Saturday afternoon (i.e. get drunk).

Well, thankfully, things turned for the good and rather than finding myself just sitting there in pure misery, while every kid under the age of 7 laughed their asses off; the tides began to change and I found myself in the place of the 7-year olds, laughing my ass off. Okay, maybe I wasn’t laughing, and maybe it was more of a grin here and there, but once the story started moving and the girl get cut-down to size, then things began to get better and better.

Somehow, some way, the movie was hitting it’s funny-bone, the action got better and more entertaining, and everything continued to get more and more greener as time went by. It was going so well and I can’t say I regret seeing this movie, even if some daddies had to shelter their kids away from the young adult, laughing his rear-end off in the third row. Yeah, that was a bit of a down-side, but I still enjoyed myself with the movie and realized that animation can still work in today’s world, even if you aren’t breaking any new-ground. I mean, I wasn’t crying like I USED to do with Pixar movies, and I sure as hell wasn’t holding my stomach like I USED to do with Pixar movies, but I was sure as hell having a nice time, and nobody could bring me down from that cloud I oh so pleasantly floated on for awhile.

And then, things got a bit weird.

I don’t want to give too much away here in terms of what the ending is all about, because it’s pretty obvious and conventional for the most part, but in terms of what type of message this movie is trying to give off: I still am left scratching my head. You can see that this girl is young, prepped-up to be the princess of her house, and deserving of everything that she wants, so why the hell does she all of a sudden begin a sort of “relationship” with a guy that’s the size of her finger-nail? Sounds strange, I know, but it left me with a weird feeling that kids are going to be leaving this flick, thinking that you can find love anywhere, even if it is with tiny men, that battle-off insects in their spare-time. Okay, maybe kids won’t be going that far, but why end the movie like that? Just have her say her good-byes, say that she’ll be back, and that her and her dad will be careful not to squash them anytime soon. Why not do that and avoid being creepy? Pixar wouldn’t have done that….

But probably the strangest aspect of this whole movie is the voice-cast. Everybody here who has something to say, is a big-name in the media for one thing or another, but to assemble them altogether in a movie where they literally don’t have to stand next to each other to get good performances, still strikes me as a bit odd. For instance, one second you’ll have Christoph Waltz doing his thing as the baddie; then, the next second, you’ll have Pitbull voicing a frog that’s supposed to be the kingpin of the slums. I never though I’d see this guy and that guy in the same movie together, but hey, that’s the crazy thing about animation. You can get away with just about putting anybody you want, regardless of if they fit together or not, because it will still work. It’s not their faces you’re saying, it’s the voices you’re hearing.

Snail's be chillin', yo.

Snail’s be chillin’, yo.

That said, everybody is pretty damn serviceable in each of their own, respective roles. Amanda Seyfried fits the innocence and angst of what it’s like to be a young gal in your teens (not that I would know); Jason Sudeikis does some weird, nasally-voice as her father, but is still good at being goofy, but also endearing as well; Colin Farrell is pretty damn bad-ass as the leader of the little dudes that fight the good fight; Beyonce doesn’t have much to do as Queen Tara, and feels like the weakest-link out of everybody else here; Steven Tyler is playing up his whole, “pot-smoking” image as the slug that has all the answers and keeps records of everything that goes down in this forest; and last, but sure as hell not least, Aziz Ansari and Chris O’Dowd are perfect fits as the two snails that continue to pop jokes, no matter what the occasion may be. They’re characters are only here to serve one purpose, and that’s to be the comic-relief for the kiddie’s to laugh at, but they actually had me giggling quite a lot. I don’t know if that’s because I actually like both comedians in general, or for what they did here. I think it’s more of the former, but at least I appreciated them nonetheless.

Consensus: The world of animation will continue to do what it’s been doing for all these years, but at least Epic still hits us with the reminder that you don’t have to change the name of the game or do something new with your story, as long as you have fun, are entertaining, and goofy for the whole family to enjoy.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

The look of a man that little girls will come to adore for awhile, only to realize that average-sized dudes usually don't look as stunning, and as groomed-up as this. This is what they usually turn out to be.

The look of a man that little girls will come to adore for awhile, only to realize that average-sized dudes usually don’t look as stunning, and as groomed-up as this. This is what they usually turn out to be.

Red Dawn (2012)

Next time, just get actual wolverines to save your asses.

Chris Hemsworth stars Jed Eckert, the leader of a group known as The Wolverines. The Wolverines are a group of young adults/children who run off to the hills after the initial attack from an invasion by North Korea, and then fight off the opposition by using the knowledge of their hometown to their advantage. Same shit as the original, just a whole different decade.

As you all probably saw around last week, I reviewed the original, 1984 cult-classic of this movie and I have to say, it didn’t do anything for me. Yeah, I had a bit of fun going back to the golden-days of when we hated Russia and seeing all of these young teenie-boppers, running around and killing off Ruskies, but overall, was pretty lame and terribly corny. This remake/reboot/whatever the fuck you want to call it, is exactly like that movie, but instead, placed in a time where anybody, I do repeat, ANYBODY could call mommy, daddy, 911, secret service, president, or anybody, just with a click of a button. In case you can’t tell by now, this movie freakin’ blows.

I guess when you have material like this, you’re supposed to leave all rhyme, reason, or all sense of belief at the door and just go into have a fun time watching a bunch of teenagers go gung ho against the North Koreans. In a way, it works, but in other ways, it just doesn’t. Mainly where most of the problem for this film lies in the fact that it does change-up some of the happenings in the original a bit, but it still feels dull and unoriginal. It’s as if every scene in this movie, was meant to just be shown on there, without any real energy or zeal whatsoever and just have people wait-up for the next, big action-sequence that apparently was going to hold you over until the next burst of energy.

The problem is, the burst of energy comes from the hand of this first-time director, Dan Bradley, who just doesn’t seem like he’s fit to hold onto a whole movie, where action doesn’t take place non-stop. With most of the action-scenes, Bradley does an alright job and obviously has a bit of fun playing around with the bigger-budget and present-day setting of this premise, but everything else that doesn’t concern action, things blowing up, people getting killed, or bullets flying, he absolutely, positively chokes on, and chokes on hard. The characters all talk in this macho, deuchy language that does nothing to make us laugh and each and every one, didn’t even seem to have a personality that was worth recognizing or holding onto. I mean, I know it’s a bit of an obvious convention in of these movies to have a joker in the group that lightens everything-up with his comedy, but they didn’t even have that here. It was just straight-up seriousness all-around, and rarely did these kids ever live-it-up because any second, they could have just vanished. Actually, come to think of it now, there’s not even that much character-development here and worse, even though all of these characters are people you’re supposed to be rooting for, care for, and be upset for when something bad happens to them, by the end, you sort of don’t care and it’s surprisingly weird how the other characters sort of seem to feel the same-way.

For instance, a couple members of the group get killed-off during a raid and as sad as it may be, the sadness/melodrama only lasts for about a minute, and then we soon see Hemsworth and Palicki flirting their asses-off by a lake as if nothing ever happened to anybody, let alone to one of their friends that they became close with, just as soon as this terrible event occurred. If my freakin’ good-buddy died in warfare, most likely, no matter how hot the babe was, I would probably not be thinking about getting my “D” wet, especially if we were in a local-war with another country that just so happened to invade my little city. Not only is that bad, but the villains that actually take-over this little city, seem to be more focused on pissing off this group, rather than taking over the U.S., taking over the world, or even, taking over the universe. Nope, they don’t care about world-domination, they just care about getting in the hair of some kids that have AK’s, good looks, and some really, really lame dialogue. Go get em, North Korea!

I think it should be noted right now that this film wasn’t supposed to be released on Thanksgiving during the year 2012. Apparently, this was supposed to come-out back in 2009 but MGM went bankrupt, and apparently pushed this film’s release-date and it’s existence back to a latter-date. Sadly, the latter-date had to be now in the movie theaters, and not now, something I would have bought for $5 at Walmart during Black Friday. But this whole project being shelved for over three-years, definitely shows in a way that makes you realize that these editors, writers, and producers were just very, very rampant in getting this out there that the film comes off like a blubbering mess. I am no lover of the original movie, but at least that had some fun-spirit in it and felt like it was a movie, rather than just a couple of cool action scenes strung together by a huge-deal of melodrama. This one, doesn’t even have that and the whole-time, I was just bored, uninspired, and feeling less and less patriotic as it went along. Hell, in a way, I started to root for the North Koreans because nobody in this group had my sympathy of my feelings.

Actually, let me scratch that, because there was one guy who did happen to have my feelings and remorse for him and that guy is non-other than Chris Hemsworth. Hemsworth, as we have seen time and time again, has a huge-deal of charisma that cannot be overlooked and it’s such a shame that he was given such a shit-role like this as Jed Eckert. And even though the dude does try and in a way, makes us forget about the shitty script-job he’s forced to work with, you still can’t help but remember that this was filmed before he hit it big as Thor and made us all realize that he is one, cool mofo that will have you at hello. Okay, maybe I went a little too overboard with my man-crushness right there, but you get my drift. The guy’s got a heck of a lot of charm to-boot and it’s just sad to see him stoop right on down to this level of crap.

Playing his brother that has little to no resemblance to Hemsworth, is Josh Peck and as terrible as he is here, he isn’t the worst-aspect of this casting. I don’t know if any of you know this out there, but Hemsworth does have a little-brother, that acts, does well in movies, and even looks like Chris. His name is Liam Hemsworth and if you look at that link, you’ll see that the two share an incredible resemblance that would have made a lot more sense, had he been cast instead of skinny and unfunny Josh Peck. But away from the overall casting, Josh Peck still sucks major-ass here and made me laugh every time he opened-up his mouth cause he can’t be serious, he can’t be cool, he can’t be heroic, and he most of all, can’t be the starting-quarterback for his high school football team. Josh, just go back to eating so you can be funny and talented again. Please.

You have to wonder why Josh Peck was given a larger-role over a guy like Josh Hutcherson who has proven us, time and time again that he can actually handle big-roles, despite not having movies all about him. Here, he’s nailed-down to a role that makes him the dope of the group that can’t seem to do anything right and falls for all of the dumbest-pranks set by the group itself. It’s a pretty lame-role for a guy that seems like he’ll be taking over the teen-world very soon once Catching Fire hits the big-screen. And lastly, the only guy who really shows up here and makes us realize that he can take a shit-movie and script, and at least inject some fun into it is Jeffrey Dean Morgan as a U.S. Soldier who sneaks behind enemy lines. The guy’s good, funny, energetic, and also feels like he could and will, kill anyone that stands in his way. Pretty much the guy’s a bad-ass but the question still remains: Who would win in a fight? Thor or The Comedian? Still, waiting on that movie and hopefully they don’t decide to let MGM help finance it either, or it’s another 3 years we’ll be waiting.

Consensus: Red Dawn didn’t really have to do much to make itself better than the original, but it didn’t have to suck this much to make us realize how good that one was either. With choppy-editing, terrible-dialogue, and plot inconsistencies that will have you writing things down for days, you’re most likely just going to want and skip-out on this and see if you can find the original on Netflix and pay The Swayze some love and respect.

2.5/10=Crapola!!

The Hunger Games (2012)

The best way to have kids learn their lessons fast, is to just put them in a fight to the death. Then they’ll wise up, trust me.

In the story, a dystopic Capitol requires its twelve subjugated districts to pay tribute in the form of a teenage boy and girl who are forced to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. When Katniss Everdeen’s little sister is chosen in the lottery, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her place.

I must admit that I have no idea where the hell I was when this book was first published and created all this hype for a flick. However, what I did have an idea about was that it was a hell of a lot cooler and more bad-ass than that ‘Twilight’ garbage and that’s really all that matters.

For the whole first hour, things really weren’t taking off which is a problem, but at the same time I was still interested. I liked the setting this film made where the rich basically got richer and the poor got poorer (which is sort of how it is in today’s society, but you didn’t hear that from me). The setting is here and I felt very intrigued by seeing how these kids all trained for the games, how they got siked up for it, and just how they spent what could be their last days alive. However, the problem with a lot of this is that even though the film has all of this interesting stuff going on right off the bat, the film moves very slow and it’s a tad boring. I won’t sit here and say that I was dozing off at any chance, because my eyes were always watching the screen, but all of the important things said (like what these kids had to say about their lives possibly being put to an end) and important things shown (how these kids were defined by these situations), all sort of went down without any real emotional connection.

After this first hour though, the film really starts to pick up and that’s where Gary Ross‘ sturdy direction really comes into play. Ross has a lot to deal with here such as a big-budget full of eye-catching visuals and CGI effects, plenty of social themes to be shown without seeming to hit us over the head (‘The Lorax’ *cough* *cough*), and a crap load of violence that had to be bearable enough to supply a PG-13 rating but also please the fans of the book that wanna see some gore. Ross is easily up for the challenge by making each of his three different locations (poverty stricken areas, lavish metropolis-like looking buildings, and a forest that isn’t a normal one you would find in your state park) all look beautiful and bring you into this world that seems similar but at the same time feels like something you have never seen before. Ross is also a great action director because he’s great at speeding up the camera just when he wants to and bring some intensity to the scenes but is also able to slow it down and give us one of the better “trip scenes” that I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s nothing spectacular or different that Ross is doing here but he seems pretty comfortable having to deal with so much pressure and so much money on just one movie by getting it done in a way that would both make regular movie-goers happy but die hards of the book as well. Good job Gary!

I also have to say for a film that has a premise where a bunch of kids are going around hacking each other to death all for their government, the film keeps the violence pretty toned down. There isn’t that much blood, there’s hardly any gore, and the violence is usually sped up so fast that you can barely make out what’s going on but when it does happen, it’s pretty disturbing. It definitely deserved it’s PG-13 rating but I can tell you that there are some stuff here that you’ll see that are pretty hard to watch but feels right to the story. It also may show us where I world is running towards with richer people looking for more entertainment in the ways of watching the lesser people practically kill each other, so you better all start working on your fighting and hunting skills.

My key problems with this film are just from a person who didn’t read the book, and probably didn’t fully “get it” like so many of you probably reading this did. Example numero uno is the whole love story between Katniss and Peeta. First off it all came off as forced, which at first was the intention but then it started becoming serious and that’s where I didn’t buy it. It practically comes out of nowhere and even when it does come around, the film makes it seem like these two kids have so much more to win for other than their lives, they also have their love. Maybe there was something that made more sense that I didn’t read but it just didn’t lock me in and have me believe in these two characters any more than I already did. Also, the little “love triangle” between these two and Gale (a totally underused Liam Hemsworth) didn’t draw me in mainly because it was too underdeveloped and didn’t really do anything for me either.

What sold me on this film though was the key performance from Jennifer Lawrence who is nothing but spectacular as Katniss Everdeen. This chick is endearing enough to where you can feel for her character, believable enough to not only make you feel for her character but also make it seem like she’s just an ordinary girl put into a real shitty situation such as this, a little smart assy to have you feel like she always has something witty to say, but also very tough where you think that she can win these “Hunger Games” and fend for herself even when things really seem like their going South for her. Lawrence gives a very well-rounded performance and doesn’t make this just seem like another character drawn right from the book, but an actual human being put into a life and death situation such as this. If ‘Winter’s Bone’ didn’t make her a star, then this definitely will and I’m glad that is the case.

As for everybody else, they are all pretty amazing too. Josh Hutcherson looks and fits the role as Peeta, and has you believe that this kid is always one step ahead of everyone else; Elizabeth Banks was goofy and flamboyant as Effie; Wes Bentley finally comes back from the dead (or wherever the hell he’s been since ‘American Beauty’) here as Seneca and gives a pretty solid performance even though he is upstaged by his awesomely-drawn tattoo/beard he’s got going on here; Woody Harrelson gives his usual witty but seasoned role as Haymitch; Lenny Kravitz was surprisingly very good as Cinna even though I had a feeling he was going to break out into “Are You Gonna Go My Way?”, which would have been perfectly suitable for the action scenes; and Stanley Tucci steals the show as Caesar Flickerman, the totally goofy-looking and smiley talk show host that seems to always be winning the crowd over, even though he’s a total cheese ball.

The only cast member that I thought was pretty lame was Alexander Ludwig as Cato. I don’t think it was necessarily Ludwig who played this character wrong it was just that the film basically made him out to be the most dangerous person in the whole “Hunger Games” and when they actually start, he’s pretty much absent from everything and has Seneca do more work for him. Then again though, I don’t think he was “the real enemy”………

Consensus: The Hunger Games probably would have been a lot better for me have I previously read the book, but without that, it features an inspired direction from Gary Ross, a great cast that all work wonders with their parts (especially Lawrence), and will be able to provide enough adventure, pathos, action, and themes for anybody who are big fans but also for people who just want a teen novel adaption that’s a hell of a lot better than those ‘Twilight’ pieces of shite.

8/10=Matinee!!

The Kids Are All Right (2010)

One of those cases where I expected way too much in the first place.

Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), the children of same-sex parents Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), become curious about the identity of their sperm-donor dad (Mark Ruffalo) and set out to make him part of their family unit, often with hilarious results. But his arrival complicates the household dynamics, and nobody is sure where or how he fits in.

This is a pretty much the same premise you can get with any other family dramedy anywhere else, the only exception is that it’s got a spin……there’s two mommies. As the world is changing, so are movies, get used to it.

Writer/Director Lisa Cholodenko does a pretty good job here of making all these characters feel legit. The film itself focuses on the all 5 members of this “family” and each and every one of them are unique in their own special way. They could have all easily been used as just plain and simple plot devices to get the story moving on, but instead they all feel real, and it’s actually really cool to see how every character’s opinion is different from the other, and how each reaction is different from the other.

The problem with me was the script. Don’t get me wrong I did like how they actually touched on a lot of subjects such as marriage, love, and family, but it all didn’t hit me like I wanted it to. On a comedy level, it’s pretty funny, in a more awkward way which really surprised me. There were times that I was actually cringing in my seat, by how painfully awkward this really was. If that’s how real life is though, then damn, I may just have to go Trojan on that one. However, the drama wasn’t having me totally affected like I was expecting. There were many emotional scenes, but the problem was that they didn’t go the extra mile to touch on its dramatic subjects. There is one element in this film that seemed like it could have been really, really dramatically played out, but instead they just chill and handle it silently. In all honesty, that certain situation would have been handled with fireworks all over the place, not just silent. I don’t know that’s how I see it, but besides that I didn’t get emotionally attached like I was expecting.

I have to say that this cast is what makes this film. Playing a bitchy, over-controlling, and strict momma is never easy to make likable, but somehow, Annette Bening makes that happen. She is perfect as Nic, with her Ellen DeGeneres look, and she has a lot of emotional scenes and it all feels true to the point. You can feel her anger, and you can see why she is, the way she is, but she doesn’t have us hate her. Which is hard to say about a lot what other actresses could have done to this character. Julianne Moore is very good as this hippy-like Jules. She does really well with this character making her seem less stupid, and more confused with what she wants, and it really plays well. Mark Ruffalo is what shines here. His character, Paul, is so cool, and laid back, that really cannot wait to see him every time he’s on screen. In a way, he’s used as a plot device, but Ruffalo makes it more than just that, and has us love his screen presence, even when he’s just standing there, and doing his cool guy smirk. Hopefully an Oscar nomination will come for all three of these peeps. Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson play the two kids, Laser and Joni (chill names for kids), and they play their characters well, but they spend too much time moping around. I wish they had more effective scenes, showing their insight on a lot more that was going on, but with what was given to them I didn’t mind that much.

Overall, I think I was just expecting more as a whole from this film. Back when I first saw the trailer, I was freakin’ out over it, and wanted to see it so bad, and the reviews poured in, and it just seemed like the greatest thing ever. However, I guess with what I got, I was just bummed out about. I thought this was going to be different from your every average family dramedy, but instead it just ended up being basically the same, and a lot of the ways certain scenes ended, I wish they ended differently. But hey, in the end, I guess it was an “all right” experience. I’m catchy as anything.

Consensus: The story isn’t as effective as I was expecting, and the plot feels a little all too familiar, but the characters are rich, and the performances keep this film running, even though you want more.

7/10=Rental!!