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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Liam Hemsworth

Knowing (2009)

Nic Cage could probably save the world. Issue is, we’d all have to put up with a lot of yelling.

Professor Ted Myles (Nicolas Cage) makes the startling discovery that an encoded message predicts with pinpoint accuracy the dates, death tolls and co-ordinates of every major disaster of the past 50 years. As Ted further unravels the document’s secrets, he realizes it foretells three additional events – the last of which hints at destruction on a global scale, which leads him to go totally gonzo and do whatever it is that he can to warn, as well as possibly save the rest of society. If that’s at all possible, without being laughed at first.

"Okay, but seriously, which one is Earth?"

“Okay, but seriously, which one is Earth?”

This is one of those rare “bad movies” that are pretty terrible and you know that. Yet, there’s something so bad about the way they go about themselves, that they’re actually pretty interesting, as well. Not because you like the story, or anything that the movie is doing really, but because there’s just something about itself that draws your mind to it, if only because you want to see how it all turns out at the end.

That’s exactly how I felt with Knowing – yeah, it was a terrible movie, but one that I couldn’t stop watching.

While, at the same time, not laugh my rear-end off at.

Calling this flick “terrible” and a “piece of a crap” probably isn’t right since it honestly isn’t the worst thing that I’ve ever seen grace the screen, it’s more or less that it just doesn’t do much for you or what your thinking. Director Alex Proyas knows how to make anything beautiful and there are a couple of scenes here that he definitely shows that. There’s a plane crash sequence very early on that’s all filmed in one shot and definitely has a look and feel as if you were right there to begin with. Then, there’s another crash sequence with a subway station that’s well-done and features special-effects that actually make it more realistic than I had imagined the plane crash one as being. There’s also a couple of other scenes where Proyas really cranks up the special-effects volume and allows there to be more than you’d expect from him and his vision, but sadly, it falls like a dud.

"Give me my agent! NOW!!"

“Give me my agent! NOW!!”

If anything, the problem with these scenes is that no matter how striking they are, they still don’t have any emotion or feeling in them whatsoever. For both crash sequences, you hear yells, screams, hollers of terror and fright, but you never get that upset feeling in your stomach, nor do you ever feel anything for these characters whatsoever. It’s almost as if Proyas just wanted to throw these scenes in cause he had the money and he thought it would look cool; which is fine, because it can definitely look cool, but when there’s hardly any emotional connection to something like the world exploding, then that’s a huge problem.

Get all the artistic points you want, but this is the end of the world, dammit! Let’s feel that tragedy!

And it’s not like there isn’t any recipe for that to happen here throughout Knowing. There’s a story between the father-and-son here, but is so under-cooked that it’s easy to forget there’s a kid even in this; the religious themes come and go as if Proyas was just Spark Noting some parts of the Bible to make himself seem more smart; and, aside from the last 20 minutes or so, there’s never really any big surprises to be found.

Oh and of course, if you couldn’t tell by now, Nic Cage is in this movie and does what he usually does – give goofy-faces, deliver some terrible lines, and make us feel as if we are watching the same performance he did, two movies ago. However, Cage owns it all and is pretty fun to watch, because you don’t know if he sees this as a crap script, or is just really giving this his absolute all. Cage pulls a lot of his usual Cage-isms here as Ted Myles, and while I never fully believed him as a college professor, I still believed him as a guy who may, or may not, be slowly, but surely losing his cool and letting people know of a possible apocalypse. If anything, I’d like to see that movie, where instead of us just getting what appears to be a rip-off of the Day After Tomorrow and Armageddon, we get something more interesting and thoughtful to where we don’t know if we can trust this guy and all of his rants – all we do know is that he’s Nic Cage, so he could either be insanely out of his mind, or telling the surprising truth.

Either way, none of that is found in this movie.

Rose Byrne is here and mopes around practically the whole time, which is a huge shame. Considering we’ve seen her light the screen up quite well in the past few years with comedies like Bridesmaids, Neighbors, and Spy, it’s interesting to look back on these earlier flicks of hers, where she was still on Damages and everybody saw her as this drop dead, serious actress who couldn’t crack a single smile. Now, that seems to be what most movies rely on her for and it’s great to see that kind of transition from her.

Cause I bet you she’ll definitely think twice about taking up another part in a Nic Cage movie.

Consensus: Knowing is all bits of bad, but at least gives some entertainment in the form of Nic Cage and the occasional burst of inspiration from Alex Proyas, but they come very few and far between utter garbage.

2.5 / 10

I would not trust Nic Cage to save me from a plane crash.

I would not trust Nic Cage to save me from a plane crash.

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.com.au

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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

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

Paranoia (2013)

Technology is taking over everything! Be ready, Wall Street!

Young, ambitious Adam (Liam Hemsworth) dreams for something big. Actually, a hell of a lot bigger than his job at a tech firm run by the powerful, but awfully snobby Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman). Adam thinks he deserves so much that when he has to present a new product his team of co-workers have been testing out, that when it doesn’t seem to please Wyatt or the rest of his squad, Adam loses a little bit of self-control and blurts out a snobby comment. Obviously no boss would take this off of any disgruntled employee, especially not Nicholas Wyatt. So therefore, Adam and the rest of his crew gets fired and decide to go to a very high-priced club, party it up, and get whatever it is that they want, all on the corporate credit card. You know, the one meant for “work”? Well, once Adam wakes up, after he has a forgettable (literally) one-night stand with the beautiful Emma (Amber Heard), he gets a demand from Wyatt, who tells him he can either go and rot in jail for the crime he’s committed, or he can do pull off a sneaky stunt where he would go over to the rival company (lead by Harrison Ford), charm everyone, and then steal a prototype smartphone that the company is working on. Sounds easy, but when the stakes are this high and the risk is a lot greater than the reward: Nothing’s ever easy.

No clue why the hell I went so in-depth with that plot-synopsis, but I guess I needed to find something even remotely interesting to type about this movie. Seriously, just by watching the first ten minutes of this movie, you can tell how everything is going to happen, why, where, when, and to what people. It’s all so obvious, conventional, predictable, and cliché, and offers barely anything redeeming about itself that’s worth watching. Whether or not that’s the cast’s or the script’s problem is totally left in the clouds, but let’s just get to the root of the problem here, shall we?

"I got you off my plane 16 years ago, don't think I won't hesitate to do it again!"

“I got you off my plane 16 years ago, don’t think I won’t hesitate to do it again!”

Director Robert Luketic, despite charming me a tad bit with 21, is back on his terrible-streak of movies, and it only seems to be getting worse. Something about the way in which Luketic directs this material not only keeps it away from sizzling, but never allows to amount to anything other than just another huge piece of blandness. You’ve seen it all before, and there’s nothing at all new or cool to see here. Just the typical crap you expect from these two-bit thrillers. It saddens me to say this too, because I don’t know why half of the talent that got involved, got involved with this because the twists and turns that this movie throws at us (way too many to be exact), are not predictable right from the start, but are terribly idiotic as well.

Take for a terrible instance in one scene where Hemsworth’s character is being watched by a group of peeps, spying on him through surveillance who want to know all that he’s up. So therefore, they’ve ran-down his whole apartment with cameras, speakers, and all sorts of tidy gadgets that they need for this one, specific scene and no other time, in hopes that they will catch him in the act of doing something mischievous, like calling up somebody to ask for help or to do something else these bastards consider “bad”. I lost track of what was good and what was bad, but that didn’t matter because apparently the baddies were the goodies all along, or something. I don’t know, and I don’t care.

Anyway, where I was at with this scene is that you’d think that these people wouldn’t want Hemsworth to know that he’s being watched by them, right? Well, that’s a smart baddie would do, but these ones apparently aren’t. They call him, and start describing certain features about the way he’s dressed and he’s walking, giving him the idea that they see him and know what he’s up to. Obviously, feeling betrayed and “paranoid”, Hemsworth lashes-out on the apartment and rips everything down, wall-by-wall, piece-by-piece. Why the hell anybody would ever call up the targets they’re spying on, and giving away with their post, totally beats me. Then again though, the rest of this flick does too.

The only reason I talked about that scene in such particular description is because it’s the most memorable, among many other scenes, that were just as-stupid-as-day. But none of what I’m saying matters, because this movie has been released to the general-public, with some big names, just in hopes that people will run out to see it. I’m encouraging you now to not even bother with it, and buy a ticket for something else. Like Lee Daniels’ The Butler?!? Or, Elysium? Or hell, even Man of Steel?!? That’s still in theaters, right? Ehh, it doesn’t matter. All I’m saying is that nothing here in this movie is worth the price of admission, so please just stay away. It’s for your own good. Trust me.

I get it! He's really, really, super, ultra hot!

I get it! He’s really, really, super duper, ultra-magnificently hot!

But if there is anything, and I do repeat, ANYTHING worth seeing in this movie, it’s the very few scenes that Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford have together, as rival CEOs, who are both evil and snarky in their own, rich guy ways. Both are playing type, and are fine with what crap they’re given, but there’s one scene between the two where they just go at one another that’s so funny, so entertaining, and filled with so much energy and spirit, you have to wonder if it was even in the same script, for the same movie, or if they just improvised their assess off and decided to roll with it. I honestly have no clue, but all I do know is that that one scene, is probably the best and most memorable scene of the whole flick, and actually the only time I felt like I was watching a summer movie that was supposed to be considered “fun”.

And even though I do feel bad for those two, I can’t at all feel bad for Hemsworth because the dude’s just a brick-wall in this movie. He’s a terrible choice for this lead role, not just because he can’t act a single bit, but because he’s simply too good-looking. Weird complaint, I know, but the fact that he’s a total heart-throb for the tweeners that this is aimed for, only makes his performance a lot less bearable to sit through, especially since he’s constantly shirtless and in a towel about every 10 minutes. He looks good, I’ll give him that, but he’s dull, can’t act, and has a body that’s a little too chiseled and ripped for a dude who’s supposed to be considered “trash”, as well as a “hipster”. For a guy who knows plenty of hipsters, Liam Hemsworth being called one, almost made me want to punch the screen, but every hipster I know. Just because you wear somewhat tight-jeans, black-and-white shoes, and don’t make more than $50K a year, does not, not even a single bit, make you a hipster. I’ll just put it down on the line like that and leave it there. So screw you, Robert Luketic! You don’t know shit about the hipster-ways. You dick.

Consensus: Nothing in Paranoia, with the exception of maybe a scene or two between Oldman and Ford, is worth recommending to see. That’s all, folks.

1.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

"So since you're insanely hot, and I'm insanely hot, I guess we sort of have to bang, right?"

“So since you’re insanely hot, and I’m insanely hot, I guess we sort of have to bang, right?”

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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 Expendables 2 (2012)

Finally, they got tired of the retirement home and decided to fight back.

Hot off their latest mission, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his ragtag team of mercenaries are pulled right back in the game when Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) presents them with a new assignment. It should be easy—to travel to Albania and retrieve a briefcase carrying a blueprint of a plutonium mine. The villain named Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme), isn’t exactly quaking in his boots, but he probably should be. There is exactly no chance whatsoever Barney will allow him to escape with his life.

I know I’m going to catch a lot of hot water for this but I actually liked the first Expendables. I thought it had awesome action, an ensemble cast of action stars that I missed seeing on the big-screen, and provided me with enough laughs to even everything else out. Yeah, the story may have been terribly lame and the action wasn’t non-stop, but at least it was fun and that’s more than I can say about plenty other Summer, action blockbusters that came out in 2010. Thankfully, with more back-up and some new faces, this sequel does a whole lot better and keeps everything moving in just the right way.

Since being writer, director, producer, and the main star of the original one proved to be too much for him, Stallone decided to take it easy on this one and allow Simon West to take over the director duties and what a great decision that was! Going into this film, I wanted action, action, action, and well, more action, and that is exactly what I got from West’s direction. In the first 10 minutes of this flick, we get a huge, loud, and explosive set piece that shows the guys running around, shooting and killing people while dropping corny one-liners for fun and to be honest, it got me in the mood for what I was about to get for the rest of the movie. It was also a surprise to see a lot of wide shots used for the action as well as some nifty editing tricks to where we could actually the action as it happened.

There is a story to be had here, but in all honesty, who gives a shit about that when you got these guys! There’s a whole lot of mayhem to be seen here and everybody here takes total and complete advantage of that and makes this flick seem like it was a lot more deserved in the action department, than the first one. I wanted loud, insane, crazy, and intense action and for the most part, West delivered on that and sort of gave me the old-school action movie feeling I wanted with the first one but instead, only got here once he put his magical touch on it. It also helps that these guys seem like they’re all having the times of their lives making this movie, and you can’t help but feel the same exact thing and join in on the festivities. That’s all I wanted, and that’s all I got and for that, I am very thankful.

However, as fun and action-packed as this movie may have been, there were still some quibbles I had with it in that department. All of the action seemed to happen with just guns and explosives. We do actually get a couple of fist-fights here and there, but it seemed like they cheated out on that mainly because the guys are getting a little too old to be flying around, simulating beating the crap out of one another. I guess after Stallone broke his neck during filming in the first one, they decided to settle down on that aspect, but it still worked none the less despite all of my bitching.

You also can’t help but laugh unintentionally at this film at times, too. There is a story here so I guess I shouldn’t be complaining too much but where it was going, how it was going, and why it was going there all seemed a bit cheap for my tastes and it gets very sentimental at one part, for which I didn’t even really care about. Let me just say this without spoiling anything, a character gets killed off in the beginning and it’s pretty obvious and doesn’t make a difference one bit. It sort of just happens and we don’t care which is kind of a bummer considering these are characters and performers we should love and care about, especially when their lives may be in one degree of danger. That rarely happens in action movies like these but let’s just forget about those conventions and try to suspend reality for a bit.

The ensemble for the first flick was great, but this one, well, it’s even better where we finally get to see some of the most iconic and popular action stars in one, big, action orgy. It’s a pretty neat thing to see, especially when they are all at the top of their game as well. Sylvester Stallone does a great job as the core of the film, and still looks fit and clean to the point of where you could imagine him not only having the brains, but also the guns (both kinds of guns) to kick anybody’s ass; Jason Statham plays Jason Statham, and it’s probably the best type of role he can play out there and that’s all that matters to me; Dolph Lundgren was hilarious and steals probably half of the scenes he’s in just being the normal, goofy, Swedish dude we all know and sometimes love him for; Nan Yu brings some estrogen to the mix and does a fine job of holding her own when it comes to kicking ass and taking names; Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger are all back for what seem to be extended cameos, but still get the chance to mow down some mothaeffa’s and sprinkle out some awesome one-liners that show them exactly why they were so requested for this movie; and let’s not forget about Chuck Norris. ‘Nuff said about that.

Everybody else that I didn’t mention is pretty much in the background but still does their own thing, which is good, but the real star of this whole cast is probably the ultimate return of Jean-Claude Van Damme in a major, action blockbuster. It’s been awhile since Van Damme has been in anything this big before and it’s a great return-t0-form for this dude because he still does all of the same awesome shit that we loved him for before. He’s still got the signature kicks in him, still oozes the charisma that makes him such a watchable presence in the first place, still is in great shape, and still can play somebody that we hate so damn much, but yet, we can’t get enough of. In my opinion, Van Damme stole the show for me and I hope that this gets his name out there once again and brings him back to the major, Hollywood blockbusters he at one point owned every time.

Consensus: While it doesn’t win any points in its character development, emotional story, or incredibly original writing, The Expendables 2 wins mucho points in providing plenty of kick-ass action, a look at some of the greatest action stars in the biz, and a fun time at the movie theaters that gives us one last bang for the Summer. Sucks to say it, but it’s just about over people and what a way to go out.

8/10=Matinee!!

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!!