Catching Fire: The Hottest Movie of the Year!

hunger_games_catching_fire_motion_poster I watched The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Thursday night at 8pm.  I may be a bit of a superfan….because I wanted to be one of the first to see it.  However, I promised one of my friends that I wouldn’t blog about it until today, so that I wouldn’t ruin it for anyone.  Let it not be said that I’m a party pooper!  Now onto the review!

Catching Fire was amazing in every sense of the word.  It far surpassed its predecessor and managed to stay a little more true to the original books.  I’m not sure if it was a change in directors, or leads that were more used to each other, but this movie makes The Hunger Games seem like a B movie.  Jennifer Lawrence showed us more feeling and emotion as Katniss Everdeen, a young girl who has now become the symbol of revolution in Panem, a dystopian, post-apocalyptic USA.  She and Peeta, played by the ever-adorable Josh Hutcherson, must reunite to go on a Victory Tour of the 12 districts, where they witness the growing revolution first hand.  President Snow (played to perfection by seasoned veteran Donald Sutherland) has her number and suspects that she is not the love struck young woman she claims to be, and threatens to kill Gale and her family if she does not convince the masses.  Honestly, I don’t think the masses give a flying f**k what she feels for Peeta, they hate Snow and the Capitol regardless.  When Snow realizes that, and that he cannot control Katniss, he tries to off her by The Hunger Games: All Star Edition, otherwise known as the Quarter Quell.  Basically, when the Hunger Games were made, they instated a loophole where every 25 years some new rule is thrown in.  This time around it’s that the tributes must be selected from each district’s pool of victors.  Alas, Katniss and Peeta are back in the ring again.

The mix of action, political intrigue, drama, and surprising humor made this film hands down the best of the year.  It’s suspected to be a record-breaking hit at the Box Office, and with good reason.  Unlike the first movie, Catching Fire breathes fresh life into the trilogy, while still holding true to its source material.  My only complaint?  They play up the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale a bit too much.  Because we don’t have Katniss’s words floating across the page, we need some screenwriters that correctly portray how she’s feeling.  The woman has had feelings for Gale for years, but she refuses to acknowledge them.  However, she and Peeta started something in the Hunger Games.  It eventually became more than an act, and everyone realizes it except Katniss.  Until the Quarter Quell Games, where she finally realizes she might be in love with this kid.  J-Law tried to portray that, I think the writers were more focused on a Twilight-esque love triangle.  Vomit.

That said, I otherwise have no complaints.  Woody Harrelson (go Hoosier state!!!!) and Elizabeth Banks were amazing, as usual.  It was darling to see another side to Effie Trinket.  Liam Hemsworth was seldom seen, but he played his part well.  The amazing Stanley Tucci had me hunched over in my seat laughing my face off.  What a gem.  I really do not think this man gets enough credit—he morphs into whoever he’s playing and it is mind blowing!  The new faces were great, as well.  Jena Malone was spot on for Johanna Mason.  Her entrance scene in the elevator was golden (I don’t want to ruin it…so let me just say she bares a piece of herself that shocks all), and I will openly admit she’s one of my favorite characters in the books.  And then there’s the beautiful Sam Claflin as Finnick.  Sigh….I don’t get what all the fuss was about surrounding him playing the Capitol City’s darling boy.  He was FREAKING PERFECT.  Eat your hearts out, straight women and gay men of the world…..

This is one of the few movies I want to PAY to go see again.  And soon.  I laughed, I cried (a lot, I’ll admit), and I jumped in my seat.  There is something here for everyone, not just the 13-25 year old crowd that devoured the books.  Shall I give it a grade?  Don’t mind if I do.  It impressed the movie cynic critic enough to earn an  A+.

Can’t wait for Mockingjay 1 and 2!

Thor: The Dark World

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Date night at at the Studio Movie Grill (which is an amazing venue–if you have one in your area GO) and Thor was on the menu.  What a wonderful experience.  Yes, the theater choice helped, but honestly the movie would have been amazing in the middle of Typhoon Haiyan.  WOW.  In this Marvel installment, two years have passed since Jane Foster last saw Thor.  He’s spent the time righting all the problems in the nine worlds, while his “evil” brother Loki has been locked away in Asgardian prison.  When Jane gets infected by a dark energy known as Aether, a race of dark elves are awoken and try to use the Aether to plunge the universe into darkness.  To defeat them, Thor must enlist the help of his brother, as well as Jane and her ragtag group of physicists.

There really isn’t anything I can think of to change in this film, which is truly saying something because I felt like the last Thor movie was a little lacking.  The cinematography was astounding.  Because much of the movie takes place in Asgard, we our eyes get a delicious treat.  Whoever came up with the design of the city/planet is an absolute genius.  There were touches that made me think of Rivendell, but not so much that it felt like a copy.  It was beautiful.  We were introduced to more characters, albeit a little briefly, including the Asgardian warrior that Thor’s father wants him to marry.  Jane Foster, played by Natalie Portman, is still a little too wonky to be believable, but she and Chris Hemsworth have mad chemistry, so whatever.  I kind of wish the Aether would have turned her slightly evil ala Jean Grey’s transformation into the Phoenix, but I understand why they steered away from that.  The movie was already 2 hours long.  It was not overlong, however.  The action was well-paced, the story flowed marvelously, and we had equal parts action, humor, romance, and suspense.  Well done, Marvel/Disney, well doe.

My FAVORITE aspect of the film was the masterful Tom Hiddleston, playing Loki.  What a complex character that little devilish god is!  He played the comic relief in the film, and shockingly was not the big bad this time around.  Although (SPOILER ALERT) methinks he’ll whip out his naughty side quite soon.  Best scene of the film?  His walk with Thor, where he uses his power of illusion to change Thor into a woman and himself into Captain America, among other things. Hilarious!!!

Tip for the Marvel enthusiasts, there are TWO credit specials in this film, so stick around til the very end 🙂

Gravity: Castaway in Space

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It was movie night with the family and we were torn between Ender’s Game, Captain Phillips, and Gravity.  Due to my mother’s chronic inability to be on time for anything (she will find a way to be late for her own funeral, mark my words), it had to be Gravity, or a 45 minute wait.  I love the credits, but not THAT much.  So we sat, popcorn and soda in hand, for what everyone has been claiming is the movie of the year.

Firstly, let me mention that we saw it in 3D, which was probably a good choice as far as 3D goes.  The feeling of being in space with Sandra Bullock, who plays Mission Specialist Ryan Stone, was incredible, and certainly added to the experience.  So while I normally am not a fan of 3D, this film is one of the exceptions and I would recommend donning the stupid looking glasses.  For an even more incredible experience, I bet IMAX would kick ass.  That said, the movie itself had some definite pros and cons.  The directing and cinematography were insanely good, but then that’s Alfonso Cuaron for you.  Bullock was incredible and just keeps proving her talents go far beyond the RomComs she became known for.  I can guarantee you she’ll be on the shortlist for an Oscar come February.  She showed strength and vulnerability, sometimes simultaneously, and reacted like I think most of us would if we were untethered and alone in space.  George Clooney, although his role was incredibly small in comparison to Bullock, pretty much played himself—a charming loon.

But then there are the cons.  I don’t know if it was the script or what, but the movie dragged.  And it’s only 91 minutes long!  It’s definitely tricky to do the solo actor thing (ask Tom Hanks, of Castaway fame).  We as humans, and especially as Americans are used to the stimulus that comes from multiple actors, crazy sets, explosions, etc.  In this case, there was pretty much just Sandra Bullock for most of the film (SPOILER ALERT!!!!  Do not read anymore unless you want it ruined!).  She was good, but I wish there was a little more Clooney.  He could have been her Wilson, and talking to someone else could have given the opportunity for more of a backstory.  I wouldn’t have minded some flashbacks, either.  Essentially, other than the fact that Ryan Stone is a crazy smart doctor of some sort, who had a family tragedy a number of years ago, we know nothing.  A little more history would explain her reactions and what she has to fight so hard to live for.  Plus it would break up the monotony somewhat.  Yes, I realize the monotony is the point.  Alone in the terrifying majesty of space, with no human contact and utter and complete silence.  Just the thought of that makes me shiver.  But as a movie goer, I need something to hold my attention, too, and the beautiful blue and green ball only worked for the first 30 minutes.

It’s rare to find that perfect movie that I don’t have any complaints about.  Gravity was not the perfect movie.  It was very good, and undeniably beautiful.  Bullock gave an Oscar-worthy performance.  But in the end, it felt overlong, even though by current length standards it was a little short.  I’m glad I watched it, however, since it is definitely one of those films, like Avatar, that are better on the big screen.

My Week with Marilyn (2011)

My Week With Marilyn

 

Oh how I wish this movie lasted a full week!  It was absolutely breathtaking to behold.  My Week with Marilyn has been on my to watch list for quite a while and thank goodness I finally got around to it.  Michelle Williams is magnificent.  She truly embodies Marilyn Monroe: her grace, her beauty, her incredible charm and sex appeal, as well as her tremendous flaws.  For once I understand what all the fuss was about.  Her insecurities and depression made her so fragile, and combined with her charm and buxom physique, she was that well-endowed damsel in distress all men dream of and women want to be.

As wonderful as Williams is in the film, it is a bigger joy to watch Eddie Redmayne’s character fall in love with her.  I’ve been gaga over this fellow since The Pillars of the Earth, and I’m determined to watch anything he’s in (if he wants to be Christian Gray all the better for meeee!!!!).  If you enjoyed him as Marius in Les Miserables, you’ll love him in this.  It’s essentially the same character, only tragically he doesn’t sing.  Sigh.

My Week with Marilyn is one part Marilyn Monroe biopic, and one part coming of age story, chronicling the epic feeling of first love, especially when that love is an international sex icon.  The best part about the movie?  It’s a true story!  An incredibly biased one-sided story based on Redmayne’s character’s memoirs, but pretty darn true nonetheless.  If I were rating this film, I’d give it an A-.

New York in the 1930s: Me and Orson Welles

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While this could be considered my being “behind the bandwagon”, I’m going to argue that I’m so far behind at this point, there’s no reason to jump on—the caravan has passed.  Regardless, this film is a gem and deserves to be commented on.  Because I have the privilege of owning a DVR, I can record and watch hundreds of movies.  Me and Orson Welles was one I’ve just recently gotten around to viewing—-but boy, I’m glad I did!

The film centers around a highschool student named Richard, who sweet-talks and lies his way into being a part of The Mercury Theatre’s production of Ceasar, starring none other than Orson Welles.  I can’t quite say it is a coming of age film, although that certainly occurs.  Richard, like many Americans, falls under Welles’ spell, despite the man’s numerous flaws (namely, his ego).  Along the way, he experiences his first love and his first real taste of the theatre, something that will obviously shape his future.

While the story is crisp and heartwarming, and Zac Efron does an amazing job portraying Richard, it is truly the cinematography, set, and costuming that won me over.  It really feels like Autumn in 1930s New York—it’s fabulous!  The way everyone talks is so charming, giving insight into a way of life that has completely gone by the wayside.  We talk faster now, and with less emphasis, because we’re in such a hurry and need to shout over everyone else who is trying to be heard.  This coming from a blogger is pretty humorous, I’m sure.

I also enjoyed the male-female dynamics in the film.  Women did not have nearly so much say back then, so they had to find other ways to get what they wanted in life.  Unfortunately, sex was often the answer.  Although, looking at Miley Cyrus, I’m not sure our gender has changed too awfully much in the past 75 years.  But regardless, this is certainly a film I’d want to see again, and I recommend to anyone.  Caveat emptor (buyer beware), however, it CAN move a little slowly for those who are action flick fanatics.

Don Jon: a brand new take on love, sex, and relationships

Don Jon

Lucky for me, I got the chance to see the new Joseph Gordon-Levitt film, Don Jon a week early.  Wow, what an experience.  Firstly, let me paint a picture of the audience.  For reasons unbeknownst to me, probably 80% of the moviegoers were 40 and older.  WHY hardly any young people like myself did not jump at the chance to see a movie written, directed, and starring JGL is something I cannot fathom.  Regardless, the studio rep, noting the old fogeys, made a disclaimer statement before the film started warning of graphic phrases and scenes.  Don Jon did not disappoint.

The film is an edgy, and might I add REAL, portrayal of love, sex, and relationships a la Generation Y.  In other words, sex comes before love and supersedes all other relationships.  But the movie questions whether real love can ever be attained in our generation of me, me, me.  Enter PORN.  Between graphic porn and probably 100 uses of the almighty “F Word”, I’m surprised some of those old timers didn’t get up and revolt.  But maybe they did, I was too busy watching the movie.  JGL’s titular character Jon, or Johnny, is a Guido called The Don by his friends due to his sexual prowess, but nothing satiates him like porn.  He lets the viewers know in the first five minutes that the only things he cares about in life are his body, his friends, his family, his church, his pad, his girls, his ride, and his porn.  He watches it and gets off to it up to 10 times a day, even though he gets action almost every night.  Until he meets Barbara Sugarman, a “dime” who won’t give it up without the promise of a real relationship (she also obnoxiously smacks her gum throughout the whole movie…the anal retentive, BEWARE).  So Don Jon plays by her rules and enters in for “the long drive”, meeting the parents and friends, watching sappy love stories (look out for fabulous cameos there!), and taking night classes.

Enter Julianne Moore, his hippy fellow student with a secret she’s not yet ready to share.  She is nosy and perceptive and annoys the crap out of him, until they finally become friends.  She uses her extra years of knowledge to teach him what he is doing wrong in his relationship with Barbara and why he has so much trouble losing himself in real sex.

 

Overall, the movie is quite touching.  It’s hilarious and sometimes abrasive, and if you are offended by f-bombs and/or porn, seriously stay away because you will not be able to sit through the movie.  But for the rest of us who are not f-bomb virgins and understand that porn is a multi-billion dollar industry and thus a very large part of many people’s lives, the movie is a gem.  It’s not wonder it was so well received at Sundance and SXSW.  I wish I could go further into what makes this movie so wonderful, but I don’t want to give away more of the plot and ruin the magic.  Just trust me on this.  Go watch it and see if you don’t walk away feeling oddly better about life.  Whether you’ve screwed up in past relationships, have been screwed, or are still waiting for a meaningful partner, the movie has something to say to make you feel better.  None of us are perfect, but the magic of humankind is our ability to lose ourselves in others…and in movies.