I guess the honeymoon for the marriage between Disney and Pixar is officially over. You know how it is. When a couple first gets together the husband lets the wife pick the restaurant, choose the shade of white for the living room, and drive the car once in a while but after a year or two he’s decided the best place for her is barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen while he smokes cigars, watches football, and makes movies with princesses in them.
(If any of you want to speculate on the nature of my own relationships based on that last statement, chances are that you would be at the same time completely right and completely wrong. Game Over image is from the Funny T-shirt category)
Not to say that Frozen is bad. It has a number of mixed messages (which are at times at odds with each other) but is pretty to look at and has a lot of singing (more on that later). If you gave the writers the assignment of creating a kid film with as many princesses and collectable toys in it as possible I’d say they did an admirable job. This is going to end up one of those reviews where I am at odds with the masses of legitimate reviews, but something about this film just left me cold (haw!).
For one thing, is there an occupation in the Disney world for a cute young girl other than princess? I mean, surely the housekeeper and peasant women at some point were hot teenage girls who had a magical romance where they fell in love and procreated without the benefit of a palace and ballroom. I laughed at the end of Wreck it Ralph when Vanellope turned out to be a princess but honestly it is to the point of being a creepy, psychotic obsession. It’s like a middle aged single man who has a massive ceramic clown collection.
Another thing that bugged me was a couple of the messages. Sure, there was a great one about sisterhood and standing by your family, but the youngest of the two princesses sole stated goal in life was to fall in love and get married. Not exactly empowering. Definitely not the accepting of your own nature message that was so great in Wreck it. Is it possible that there might be a teenage girl in a Disney film who wants to go to college and accomplish something other than fall in love, or maybe just smoke a lot of pot and become the worlds best twerker?
That’s not totally fair. There was a good message about acceptance in this one as well, and the importance of not being a closeted shut in. A lot of it felt recycled from other films however and this really wasn’t the vehicle to carpool these messages to work.
There were some things that did bug me in definable ways. The trolls, for one thing. A more blatant ploy for selling toys you will not find, and they were truly annoying (as well as unnecessary). Yes, I know this film is for the kiddiewinks and I am an ass for even reviewing it, but a good kids film should entertain all ages. I could see WIR once a week and enjoy it. Anyway, the trolls sucked. What did the look like, you ask? Take a troll doll, squish the aspect ratio down vertically about 20%, and color them green. Done.
Finally, the singing. You know how in the Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast there are classic songs that work themselves into the movie seamlessly and you can hear them even now and not only know what film they were from but exactly what scene? I’m a dude of massive machismo and even I can recognize Be Our Guest and tell you exactly what was happening while it was being sung (truth be told, put a gun to my head and I could probably recite most of the lyrics. No amount of coercion will get me to actually sing it, however), or Under the Sea. No danger of that here. Instead of songs that enhance the film the music is forced into the film with the subtlety and painlessness of a garden hose catheter and are mostly the characters singing their dialog instead of speaking it. I honestly can’t remember one of them. They all blur together into a mediocre montage. The people singing them didn’t impress me with their pipes either, although to be honest I am not much of a musical talent myself unless playing the radio counts. I just know what I like.
The story. It starts off with Princess Anna (Kristen Bell-Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Veronica Mars, When in Rome) waking up her older sister Ilsa (Idina Menzel-Rent, Beowulf, Enchanted) so they can play. Ilsa has magical cold power for some reason and can manifest ice and show. While playing she accidentally shoots Anna in the head and freezes her brain. Her father and mother the king and queen take her to the local trolls, who look like rocks until they unroll themselves. The head troll (Ciarán Hinds-There Will Be Blood, the Road to Perdition, the Woman in Black) cures her and also erases her memory of Ilsa’s powers for some reason (?). Ilsa has to shut out Anna and hide in her room trying to control her power.
Skip forward a couple years and the king and queen are “lost at sea” (cough cough dead cough cough. Have fun explaining that to your kindergartener). Ilsa and Anna live almost alone in the shut down palace until Ilsa comes of age and is made queen. She still can barely control her power and has to wear gloves all the time. At the coronation party Anna meets Hans (Santino Fontana-Jersey Shore Gone Wild, Submissions Only, Nancy Please), a handsome prince. They hit it off and ask Ilsa for permission to marry after knowing each other for like two hours (another great message for your kids). She wisely denies permission but Anna argues. During the course of the argument Anna gets a glove and Ilsa unleashes her power, freezing over the countryside.
Ilsa runs off into the cold and creates a pretty spectacular ice palace. Anna goes after her and leaves Hans in charge. In the woods she meets up with Kristoff (Jonathan Groff-Taking Woodstock, the Conspirator, C.O.G.), a professional ice seller who is now in need of employment. She hires him to help her get to her sister. Along the way they meet up with a living snowman Ilsa created named Olaf (Josh Gad-Jobs, Love and Other Drugs, 21) who is along for the comedy relief. They get to Ilsa but she ejects them with the help of a terrifying snow monster she also created.
Hans leads an expidition to find Anna and capture Ilsa (the whole country is frozen over) and mixes it up with the snow monster. Two dudes send along by a two big bad duke (Alan Tudyk-Firefly, Tucker and Dale vs Evil, Wreck it Ralph) try to kill Ilsa and she defends herself. During the course of the fight Anna gets ice zapped in the heart. Kristoff takes her to see Trolli who says only an act of true love will save her. They rush back to the palace where Hans has Ilsa locked up and he turns out to be a power hungry jerk (why is it chicks always dig the bad boys?). Conflict ensues, Ilsa learns an important message about the power of true love and sisterhood, and Anna finds here heart is elsewhere.
I don’t know. This is one of those films that in my opinion the total value does not equal the sum of all its parts. It has the elements needed. A princess or two. Check. Cute sidekick characters. Check. A hunky romance. Check. A bad guy who is not too threatening. Check. Singing. Check. Some magical visuals. Check. I have seen other reviewers call this one another Disney classic but honestly I don’t see it. It’s good but not amazing. A couple years from now it will be just another one on the pile. I don’t think they will be remastering and rereleasing it 25 years from now. Of course with kids films I skip the star/black hole thing and just go with how the kids in the audience react, and to be honestly they all seemed to be loving it. From that perspective this film is nigh flawless and perfect to help your kid kill a couple more hours of his or her childhood. I just don’t think you the adult will be as entranced.
So worth seeing sure. Maybe my dissatisfaction stems from my cold, dead heart but in truth there are plenty of kids films that I love. Date movie? Absofreakinglutley. If you don’t have kids but have a chick you are trying to thaw (haw! again) you can’t pick a better film. Bathroom break? Nothing really jumps out as being truly necessary or unnecessary. Maybe the scene at the trading post?
Thanks for reading. I still have Oldboy to write up but for some reason am not that motivated to work on it. I’ll try to get it done tomorrow. I double dog dare you to follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Who wants to be my 200th follower? If you have a comment on this film or my review post it here, and if you have an off topic question or suggestion feel free to email me at email@example.com. Have a great night.
With bonus Jason Stratham game!
Another movie that disappointing me by not being as horrible as I expected, based on other reviews and past experience. I guess even I can be surprised. The disappointment, however, comes from the fact that I was all prepared to dump my pent up bile and frustration at my own dating life on the movie of a guy who probably does pretty well with the ladies, Jason Stratham. Now I have to give it an honest review.
Of course, the parts I liked had little to do with Mr. Stratham. And don’t mistake my opening for a rousing endoursement of this film. It is at best an above average action movie. It’s just that in my opinion it does not deserve the 32% rating my “fellow” critics (most of them would be highly insulted that I put myself in their exalted box, but I am free to delude myself as much as I like) gave it on Rotten Tomatoes (on the other hand the 70% audience rating seems a bit generous). Normally these modestly above the mean make for pretty boring reviews, so to spice thing up I think I will start off with a game I invented called “Write the next Jason Stratham movie”. I’m sure at some point in your childhood you have done Mad Libs, so you should be able to play pretty easily. Just fill in the blanks and I’m sure Fox or New Line will green light it.
“Jason Stratham plays an ex (cop, military, or criminal of some kind) who wants to get out of the life and settle down with his (female relative or significant other of some kind) someplace quiet. He has a few tender moments with her but then randomly runs into (local criminal, mafia, or rogue agent/military). The antagonist acts aggressively but Jason (shoots or beats up) him and (a number between 3 and 10) of his henchmen.
The antagonist goes back to his (crime boss, superior officer, older more powerful relative) and the boss decides Jason is a threat. Meanwhile, Jason investigates the group by (asking around town, calling old associates, or finding a nerdy computer hacker) and then confronts the lesser antagonist and (tries to make amends or threatens him). His romance is kindled further with (significant other or local hot chick with heart of gold).
Jason gets captured by the antagonists and is (water boarded, tortured, or threatened) but manages to escape when the bad guys (leave him alone with some loose tools to escape with, don’t tie his legs, or untie him in order to show they can beat him in combat) rather than just shoot him. He (shoots or beats up) (a number between 3 and 6) of the henchmen and gets away. As he escapes his female relative is kidnapped by the bad guys while his black friend who helped him earlier is killed.
He finds out where they are keeping her by (capturing the wimpiest of the bad guys and forcing it out of him, arousing the sexual desire of the antagonists girlfriend with his bald bad ass good looks, or by having his computer hacker friend or former associates track them somehow). He collects a (trunk full of guns, homemade explosives, or a crossbow) and assaults the bad guy stronghold like a one man wrecking machine, killing (a number between 14 and 50) henchmen. He runs into the lesser protagonist in a (warehouse floor, warehouse roof, or warehouse basement) just as he runs out of (bullets, crossbow bolts, or throwing knives) and they have to fight with (bare fists, a pipe, or a fire axe). Jason wins by (breaking the guys neck, pushing him off a tall building, or impaling him on a pipe and then breaking his neck).
Finally he finds his female significant other being held at gun point by the head bad guy with a waiting (helicopter or boat). All seems lost but then the female (stabs the guy with a hidden knife, stomps on his foot with the stiletto heel he made her put on, or bites the hand that he has wrapped around her neck). He loses control of her, allowing Jason to (shoot, stab, throw off a building) him, thus saving her and putting a stop to whatever nefarious (drug deal, espionage, or arm deal) the guy had cooking. The end.”
See, you all thought writing these things was hard.
I think what I just illustrated is how simple most of these stories are, and this one hit every mark. At that point the only thing distinguishing one formulaic action film from the next is the quality of the characters, and that his honestly where Jason fails to deliver. He pretty much acts like a pissed off terminator through the majority of the films, and I’ll tell you in advance any of the scenes involving him alone with his daughter is the perfect time to run out and use the bathroom, flirt with the concession girl, or just step outside and appreciate the wonder of being alive on this planet. The rest of the cast more or less makes up for his robotic delivery.
One more thing before I get into it. I guess the director of this film made the mistake of seeing Spring Breakers and realized as I did that the only redeeming thing in that film (aside from hot girls in bikinis, I mean) was James Franco playing an Everglade hillbilly and opted to write that into this film in the role of Gator Bodine, only without the flare. Also, is it even remotely possible they could have found a more stereotypical name for this guy? This is almost as bad as creating a bad guy out of thin air between two sequels and just calling him General Grievous in case you missed the point (that he is bad).
The story. Honestly I just gave it to you up above. Jason Stratham (Parker, the Transporter, Killer Elite) plays Phil Broker, an ex DEA agent who is wanted by a biker gang and moves to a small town in Louisiana with his ten year old daughter (Izabela Vidovic-Zombieland, Home for the Holidays, Grave Secrets). She gets into a fight with a school bully (Austin Craig-no other credits) and kicks his ass. His mother (Kate Bosworth-Superman Returns, Straw Dogs, the Warriors Way) is a meth head with a temper and wants revenge. Jason ends up kicking the ass of her wimpy husband (Marcus Hester-Looper, Lawless, the Conspirator), embarrassing her in front of the town.
She goes to her brother Gator Bodine (James Franco-Spring Breakers, The End, Oz the Great and Powerful), local drug manufacturer and sort of bad ass. He looks into Phil and discovers that he was DEA. He opts to sell him out to the biker gang with the help of his girlfriend (Winona Ryder, looking super hot in a dirty way. I’ve always had a thing for her. Edward Scissorhands, Girl, Interrupted, Black Swan. The scissor hands diagram comes from the Movie tshirt category). At that point just follow the Mad Lib. Jason gets captured and beat on, escapes, the bikers come to kill him, his daughter gets kidnapped, yada yada yada. Don’t come to this film looking for surprises.
While the story was flat and predictable, if you treat it like the serving platter to deliver a decent meal of mundane food on it was nigh perfect. One star. Action was decent, and at no point did my disbelief feel a lack of oxygen. One star. James Franco was pretty good, as were most of the rest of the local color. Kate Bosworth kind of tore it up as a psychotic meth addict. One black hole. I’m definitely going to give them a star for using Clancy Brown as the sheriff. Oh, who is Clancy Brown you ask? Only the Kurgan from Highlander. You suck if you did not know that. One star. Another star for Winona Rider. I’m always glad to see women who turned me on as a high school student still looking super hot. Also she was pretty good here. One star. In general this film did not suck in the many ways that I expected it to. It was actually fun to watch. Two star. Total: seven stars.
The black holes:
The story was indeed flat and predictable. If your doctor has prescribed no surprises in your life this is the film for you. One black hole. Jason Stratham really is stuck with exactly one character in all his movies (well, all his movies not directed by Guy Ritchie). He still has the five o’clock shadow clause in all his contracts too I noticed. One black hole. Total: two black holes.
So a grand total of five stars. Not bad, really. You could do worse by a lot. Credit to Sylvester Stallone. While formulaic he definitely knows what works in an action film. If you are looking for fun without a lot of brain exercise perfect for you. Date movie? Meh. If she’s into action films sure but otherwise the romance and the little girl are not enough to keep her engaged I think. Bathroom break? I already told you, any of the one on one scenes with Jason and the little girl.
Thanks again for reading. I’m seeing Oldboy later tonight and will write that up tomorrow I guess. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Feel free to leave any comments on the film or this review here, and if you have an off topic question or suggestion email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to you soon.
It didn’t quite NOT deliver.
Have you ever met a person of the gender of your sexual interest and are totally attracted to in spite of the fact that all of your previous experience, logic, and just common sense should in no way be into? I’m not just talking about good girls wanting bad boys (you girls can all blame your fathers for that) but rather someone who is so far out of your normal scope of attraction that you find yourself questioning your base foundations?
My best friend and I have a term for this phenomenon and that is “strangely attractive”, as in “In spite of the fact that I want to hate that girl with the burning passion of 10,000 suns I find her strangely attractive.” Vince Vaughn is strangely attractive as an actor. The lists of reasons why I should hate him and his movies is more than extensive, but for some bizarre reason I find his films appealing and entertaining. It is one of the great movie conundrums, like why do Adam Sandler movies make money, where the f&$% did midichlorians come from, or why did the nerd community not come together and declare a fatwa on Joel Schumacher after Batman and Robin?
Unfortunately Vince Vaughn’s bizarre, inexplicable appeal was not enough to carry this film all the way through. This film looks like one that started with a seed of brilliance and then died on the operating table. The basic idea is really good: average Joe (haw!) finds out that through a mix up at a fertility clinic he is the biological father of hundreds of kids. At that point, however, it seems like the writers just sat back and assumed comedy would spontaneously manifest itself through the will of the human gestalt consciousness. There are a few good set pieces but once we get through the comedy of Vince freaking out discovering his revelation the whole thing turns into a mediocre heart warmer and all the best comedic lines get handed off to the lawyer buddy.
However, like I said in the sub title the movie isn’t horrible. It has it’s moments and you will laugh upon occasion. What was horrible, however, was the timing of this release. I don’t know who at DreamWorks thought going toe to toe with the Hunger Games was a good idea, but that person should not only be fired but frozen in carbonite for a few hundred years in hopes that a cure will have been found for whatever genetic brain defect he or she suffers from rather than risk passing it on to the next generation. Either that or just shoot them into space. Trying to compete with a juggernaut like Catching Fire is like a class of baby seals taking a field trip to the International Club and Cudgel Convention (this year located in Garden City, Kansas).
The movie begins with down and out loser David (no irony there. Vince Vaughn-the Internship, Dodgeball, Wedding Crashers) working as a meat delivery guy for his fathers company with his two brothers. His father Mikolaj (Andrezej Blumenfeld-the Pianist, Little Rose, Where Eskimos Live) and brothers (Simon Delaney-This Must Be the Place, Roy, Amazing Grace and Bobby Moynihan-the Invention of Lying, Monsters University, the Brass Teapot) love him but think of him as a complete loser. In a direct slap in the face to my life this penniless loser with no education and nothing going on has the hottest girlfriend on the planet Emma (Colby Smolders-How I Met Your Mother, the Avengers, Safe Haven) and a best friend Brett who is a lawyer beset by being a single dad with four toddler kids (Chris Pratt-Parks and Rec, Zero Dark Thirty, Movie 43. Li’l Sebastian image comes from the TV Show T Shirt catetory).
Emma tells David that she is pregnant but doesn’t want him involved since he is a flaky loser. David goes home and is confronted by an attorney for the fertility clinic he donated to over 600 times. The attorney tells him that due to a massive error at the clinic he is now the biological father of 533 children, a lot of whom are suing to find out who he is. There is a nice collection of David freaking out and coming to grips with his fatherhood scenes while Brett volunteers to handle his case for him. The kids give him a file of profiles of the assorted kids and when he gets home he pulls one out and looks at it.
Turns out the first kid is a professional basketball player. David goes to see a game and gets pumped up. He starts randomly pulling out profiles and visiting each kid anonymously. They range from successful to almost homeless. He tried to help them when he can and feels a kinship with each one. Meanwhile he owes $80K to some loan shark for some reason and is in danger of getting killed, and he is trying to prove to Emma that he is worthy of being his newest kids father.
Once the big reveal is done and he falls into the routine of visiting kids the story kind of peters off. The funny lines get shifted over to his friend Brett and the film tries to end up a feel good romantic comedy with mixed results. In truth this film felt more like a TV show pilot than a feature film, and that TV show is My Name is Earl. You know, Earl has an epiphany and has to visit and make amends with all he ever wronged? This could have been a really good show but as a movie the assumption was that we would see the funny in the feel good and the feel good in the comedy. Tonal failure IMO. Started as a comedy and tried to end as an After School Special about the importance of family.
Vince Vaughn was entertaining for no reason I can put my finger on. One star. Colby Smulders rocks my world, although at some point in her career I would appreciate her showing some skin that isn’t exclusively on her hands, neck, or face. One star. Many of the individual set pieces were funny, and would have been great on a one hour TV show. One star. The father and brothers were all pretty good. One star. Some of the individual children were entertaining, especially Viggo. One star. In general not a waste of my time. One star. Total: six stars.
The black hole:
No real tone. Comedy or feel good? At times it even got almost grim and gritty. One black hole. The movie ended with all the power of a balloon with a slow leak finally settling on the ground. Great concept, but the story needed to really be fleshed out. One black hole. More TV pilot than movie. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
A grand total of three stars, a very mediocre score for a fairly mediocre movie. Even if this film had not tried to go against the biggest movie powerhouse of the year odds are it would have disappointed in the box office. You can’t stop a flood with a sugar filled sandbag. Definitely worth killing an evening at home one night on NetFlix, but I doubt it will leave a lasting mark. Date movie? Sure, it’s heartwarming and will put baby making in your date’s mind. On the other hand this could lead into one of those horrible girl questions for which there is no good answer, such as “Would (or have) you ever donate(d) to a sperm bank?” “Do you masturbate and if so how often (and to what)?” Bathroom break? Any of the individual kid vignettes are not really important in and of themselves, so pick one and miss it with impunity. The best one to miss would be the drunk fat guy trying to get into the cab.
Thanks for reading. I saw Homefront about and hour ago and will review it tomorrow morning. Join the vast majority of humanity and my readers by specifically NOT following me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. No one really wants to be an original I guess. Just like when I ask girls out on dates. If you have a comment on this film or my review leave it here. If you have an off topic question or suggestion feel free to email me at email@example.com. Have a great Thanksgiving.
There’s a special feeling you get when you see a franchise movie with a dedicated fan base on opening night. If any of you saw any of the Star Wars or Harry Potter movies this way you know what I mean. As bad as some of them may be you cannot help but get caught up in the excitement and passion that the fans exude from every pore and orifice. People show up in costume, show creepy fan tattoos, and will happily band together and beat the ass of any with the temerity to doubt the world wide worth of their favorite book-turned-movie character. These things add a flavor and energy to the film that otherwise might go unnoticed. Also if you fail to appear to enjoy the film there’s always that band together thing to worry about.
Well, except for Twilight, of course. There isn’t enough fan loyalty and good will in the universe to make that franchise watchable. We’re talking a general feeling of warmth here, not the almighty power of God. The best way to find one of those sparkly vampire movies enjoyable is on some serious drugs in a completely different room from the one the film is playing in, preferable in a different house in a different city or even on a completely different plane of existence where life is based on silicon rather than carbon and communication is through low level coded emissions of radiation. Speaking of God and different planes of existence the Charlie Sheen winning image I got from the funny t shirt category. It was the only winning image I could think of.
So the fan base at the late night screening last night added to my enjoyment of this film. I saw three girls dressed as Katniss (one with a fake bow and quiver of arrows, although for some inexplicable reason she had her pretend arrows coming out of the quiver point first). All of them were young and cute, which are two words that could describe a really large percentage of the audience. I felt like an even creepier old man than I do when I see kids movies. At least at kids movies some people might think I’m developmentally challenged. I really need to get a girlfriend who loves movies so I look like less of a loser. Lacking that I adopted my usual creepy solo loner at an inappropriate movie mien by scowling continuously while reading my own blog (let it not be said that I am not a fan of my own work, or that my ego needs inflating) on my phone, thus guaranteeing a bubble of at least two seats in all directions so I could watch the movie in relative peace.
I saw the first Hunger Games and was honestly shocked at how much I enjoyed it. I was expecting it to be another sparkly vampire fiasco and walked in with my bile cannon locked and loaded, but I am man enough to admit when my ill informed preconceived notions are incorrect. I went and read the book afterward and enjoyed it as well. Suzanne Collins is a talented writer and cut from a much different cloth than certain writers of other novel series designed to suck disposable income and brain cells from the purses and brain pans of teenage girls. Katniss had actual depth, was not caught in a pointless love triangle with sizzle chested man/boys, and had actual drama going on in her life not the problem of deciding which idyllic life to choose. She showed courage and strength of character when she volunteered as tribute in the place of her sister, and since I was invested in her character I honestly cared about what befell her.
This film continued that tradition. I opted to not read the second book until I had seen it and in retrospect I am glad I did. You see, in the moments prior to Katniss being raised up to the arena floor in this film I had a feeling so alien I had a hard time classifying it. I was leaning forward in my seat, my pulse was elevated, and I could feel adrenaline rushing through my body. Was I having a heart attack? Brain aneurism? About to Sublime to an energy based level of causality? No, this was honest to God excitement, the rarest and most valuable of emotions for a movie reviewer (or just movie attendee).
The fact is by not knowing what happened in the book and by being invested in both Katniss and Peeta (most of the rest of the cast too) I was honestly concerned for their safety. This is a harder thing to pull off than you might think, and when you see 150+ movies per year (and then write rambling reviews of them) it is even harder. Since I knew there was a third movie I could reasonably deduce that Katniss was probably going to survive, but what about Peeta? Or Haymitch? What was going to happen to Cinna or that sizzle chested man/boy Gale that Katniss was mooning over (God dammit!)? Any one of them could have ended up on the wrong end of a machete and that would have been both amazing and a bum out. Even the new tributes had me engaged (especially Johanna).
On the other hand, if I were to offer one major criticism to this movie (and you know I have to) it’s that this is another book-to-film adaptation that assumes we all worship at the Hunger Games alter and read from the holy books every night before going to bed. Sorry but I didn’t write my thesis on Catching Fire (it was actually on the diminishing appearance of masculine art in a marginalization environment, if you have to know) and there were any number of moments where I was going “Huh?” while the rest of the audience was laughing or nodding sagely. I feel dirty for saying this given how much I have bitched about the multiple movie approach to other books (cough cough the Hobbit cough cough) but I think this story was dense enough and rich enough to warrant a part I and II. There was lots of stuff only touched on that I think I would have enjoyed seeing explored.
The film starts off with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence-Silver Lining’s Playbook, Winters Bone, X-Men First Class) having PTSD flashbacks while hunting with her sort of boyfriend Gale (Liam Hemsworth-the Expendables 2, Paranoia, the Hunger Games). She has to leave on a victory tour of the 12 Districts with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson-the Kids are All Right, American Splendor, Epic). Before leaving she is confronted by President Snow (Donald Sutherland-Mash, the Eye of the Needle, Ordinary People) who tells her that her poison stunt is being seen as an act of defiance and the only way she is going to not have her family killed is if she sells her fake romance with Peeta to the hilt.
(Quick aside-while it is absolutely true that the subtle nuances of the human mating rituals are entirely lost upon me (along with most of the not-so-subtle ones, and for that matter a lot of the painfully obvious ones) but given what he does for her it is apparent that Katniss absolutely does not deserve a guy as good as Peeta. Haymitch says exactly that, but as a man who works to be a good guy and help his friends (female and male) I was feeling a lot of Peeta’s pain. If any of you women wonder why you never date nice guys let me say on behalf of all the nice guys you have probably rejected in your life go to hell (no the irony is not lost).)
Anyway, they get on the bullet train with Haymitch (Woody Harrelson-Zombieland, Now You See Me, No Country for Old Men) and Effy (Elizabeth Banks-Pitch Perfect, the 40 Year Old Virgin, What to Expect When You are Expecting) and travel to all the districts. They start to see signs of discontent in a lot of them, to the point that they managed to inspire riots and executions. They try their best but Snow is convinced that the two of them are a threat to his power and stability. At a decadent party Katniss meets Plutarch Heavensbee (WTF is up with the names in this film? It doesn’t look that far in the future. No one is named Bill? Plutarch is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman-Moneyball, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, the Big Lebowski), the new head of the Hunger Games. He says some ominous stuff.
Katniss and Peeta keep screwing up, so Plutarch and Snow decide to do away with them. The big 75th anniversary Hunger Games is coming up and the opt to pull in just previous winners from each of the districts. Haymitch is chosen but Peeta volunteers in his place. The go through the whole pre game rigamarole more or less same as last time; training, evaluation, interviews with creepy Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci-the Terminal, The Devil Wears Prada, Captain America the First Avenger). This time the two of them work to build alliances with other tributes including wild girl Johanna (the strangely attractive Jena Malone-Sucker Punch, Contact, Into the Wild) and brainiac Beetee (Jeffrey Wright-Source Code, the Quantum of Solace, Casino Royale). All of the tributes are pretty pissed about getting dragged back into this fiasco and take every opportunity to turn the screws on President Snow.
They all get injected into the Games and Battle Royale mayhem ensues. This time there are no kids, but honestly it seemed even more cruel than last time. More effort is expended to survive the environment than each other. I don’t want to give away anything to anyone else who didn’t read the books, but there are twists and turns and the whole thing ends on a massive cliffhanger.
Much better story that the subject matter deserves if you know what I mean. The real story took place outside of the Games, and greatly explored a lot of the politics. Two star. I am a big fan of both Donald Sutherland and Woody Harrelson. One star. Jennifer Lawrence was looking even hotter here than in the last one, and Jena Malone was really turning me on. Of course it could be that I am drawn to psychopathic women armed with razor sharp battle axes, but I don’t want to follow that thought thread too closely. One star. The combined story and characters had me really giving a damn about what happened to all of them. I was really engaged. Two stars. I honestly liked the big twist, and it left me excited about the next film. One star. President Snow is a great villain. One star. Action was fun and exciting. One star. Pacing was great, and you hardly felt the 146 minutes. One star. An excellent use of my time. Two stars. Total: twelve stars.
The black holes:
I don’t want to dump on the acting, but it was really inconsistent. Sometimes great, sometimes robotic as hell (except for Woody. He was solid throughout). One black hole. There were any number of points that would have made a lot more sense had I read the book. I know I could have, but honestly a film should always stand on it’s own merits and not require pre-reading. One black hole. The whole story felt really rushed. I have the feeling the directors cut runs like 3-4 hours. I think they missed an opportunity by not breaking this one into two films, and now that I have said that I will have to go to my dark closet and flagellate myself for crimes against film. One black hole. The sadistic nature of the Hunger Games has not softened with a second movie and I still find it really hard to watch. It is even more apparent in this one. I really hope there is some kind of long due comeuppance being delivered in the last film for everyone involved. One black hole. Total: four black holes.
Eight stars total. A very solid and respectable score. If you saw the first one you should absolutely see this one. If you are curious try to see the first one then see this one. The camera work is not so epic that it requires a big screen, so feel free to see it at home. That being said a large screen or IMAX will not be wasted. Date movie? A film about a hot capable chick who kicks ass and has a believable tragic romance? How could this not be a great date movie? Bathroom break? Hmm. I supposed if you aren’t into the visual of it the chariot scene is pretty expendable once they climb aboard. It’s pretty much the same exact scene as the last film. The training sequences are pretty perfunctory as well. Katniss kicks ass with a bow, everyone else is good at something. Not exactly the most staggering of expositions.
Thanks for reading. I’ll try to see something else tomorrow or Sunday and write it up. Follow me on Twitter (or don’t as the vast majority of my readers seem inclined to) @Nerdkungfu. Comments about this review or movie can be left right here, and if you have an off topic comment or suggestion feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you happen to work for a studio and want to get me in to see advanced screenings I am most definitely down to hear from you. Also I am willing to work with other sites publishing my reviews, so if your reviewer just went back to rehab and you are looking for someone let me know. Talk to you all soon.
Now we are getting into some quality Star Trek. Interesting story, nice twist, and a girl so unbelievably hot she will make your eyes bleed (in a good way). The girl is played by Louise Sorel. She never did an amazing single role but has had a considerable filmography, doing Broadway, soaps, and a ton of prime time appearances.
The image is one of the many episode shirts from the Star Trek T-Shirt collection.
This is another episode that had less of an impact on me as a kid. I only saw it a couple times and the story was a little more complicated. I remember being kind of confused as a kid and the names bandied about like Da Vinci and Brahms had less of an impact on me than if Flint had said he was also Buck Rodgers or B.A. Baracas. However, upon rewatching it as an adult (technically) I realize it was a pretty damned good story. The idea that one man could play so many roles over so long was intriguing, as was the concept of him having such an impact on our culture. The clues Spock picked up on that led them to understand who he was were very cool, and M4 was pretty epic, although clearly a remake of Nomad from the Changeling (also redone as V’ger from Star Trek: the Motion Picture, only with more punch). However, Season 3 was all about cannibalizing the previous seasons so I won’t hold that against it.
Speaking of recycling from earlier seasons, if you watch the original showing the image of Flints home is pretty clearly the painting they did for Rigel IV from the Cage. I guess the budget was running a little thin at that point. They were probably digging through the props warehouse looking for anything they could use on the cheap. When they remastered this one they changed the image to a much more impressive mansion. Not sure if I like that or not. I find most of the remastering changes both annoying and unnecessary. Part of the appeal is the cheapness of the effects. You wouldn’t go to a live play and bitch because there is no lens flare, would you? If you are only watching Star Trek for the special effects stop reading my blog, J.J. Abrams.