Movie of the Week: The Hunger Games

The one question I kept asking myself after walking out of of the movie theater was, “Would I have enjoyed this film more if I hadn’t read the book?” As an adaptation, it was okay. It was like a Cliff Notes version of Suzanne Collins’ book. You got the basic idea but none of the nuance. The problem is the nuance is where a majority of the story lies.

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Movie of the Week: Young Adult

Young Adult is one of those movies that I didn’t hate but didn’t love either. I thought the performances were good particularly Charlize Theron as reprehensible and (likely) mentally unstable Mavis Gary trying to reconnect with her married high school ex. Patton Oswalt as her former classmate and unlikely friend Matt Freehauf was also pretty good. Sometimes it’s hard for me to take Oswalt seriously because when he talks, I automatically think about his comedy sets but in this film, I got over it pretty quickly.

I appreciated that the movie never tried to make Mavis sympathetic. She was a horrible self-centered person at the beginning of the movie and (spoiler alert) she leaves her hometown pretty much the same way (with a few dents in her armor). The only problem is that doesn’t make for much of a movie. You want to credit director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody for making a movie that defies the movie convention that your main character has to change and grow but, after watching this, I now see why this convention exists.

Dialogue-wise, this was probably the least Cody-esque film she’s done. With a few exceptions, if you hadn’t told me she wrote this movie, I wouldn’t have known which is really the nicest thing I can say about a Diablo Cody script.

Movie of the Week: The Muppets

The best thing I can say about The Muppets is after it ended, I was genuinely happy. There are always movies that entertain me or intrigued me but there aren’t many that make me leave the theater with a smile on my face. That’s how this revival of the Muppets made me feel. Everyone involved (Writers Jason Segal & Nicholas Stoller, director James Bobin and music supervisor Bret McKenzie) got it right.

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Movie of the Week: Drive

If this movie had been made in the 70s or early 80s, it would have starred Clint Eastwood. That was the first thought I had about Ryan Gosling’s nameless character who I will refer to as “The Driver” from this point forward. The Driver reminded me of the number of cowboys Eastwood used to play whose number of line you could probably count on your two hands.

The second thought I had was “Wow, this violence is pretty graphic.”

I’ve always heard about the films of Nicolas Winding Refn (Vahalla Rising, The Pusher trilogy) but after seeing this, I’ll be hunting his films down. I loved everything about the ambiance of this movie. Between the slo-mo and the soundtrack, it had a very classic feel to it. It definitely had a lot of directorial flourishes but I didn’t mind them at all.

Gosling was great as usual but I think this may have been his second best (I will always have a special place in my heart for Lars and The Real Girl). As previously mentioned, Gosling does not have a lot of lines but he’s able to convey pages worth of emotion with a furrow of his brow and tightening of his grip. At first, I wasn’t feeling the budding relationship between the Driver and Irene (Carey Mulligan who clearly went to The Natalie Portman Black Swan School for Delicate Acting for this role) but after the violence ramped up, it served as a great contrast. The Driver was sweet with Irene and her son, Benicio, but when he was unleashed, it was quite jarring (particularly the scene in the elevator with Mulligan and a thug sent to dispatch them).

All the supporting performances were good particularly Bryan Cranston as Shannon, The Driver’s employer and only friends, and Albert Brooks as Bernie Ross, the mobster who ultimately comes after them both. Ron Perlman as Berine’s partner Nino was a little hammy but it’s probably been awhile since he’s gotten to play a guy with this much energy and Oscar Isaac (Irene’s husband, Standard) made the most of his scenes.

I would highly recommend this movie but be warned, there are some scenes of extreme violence. There aren’t a lot of scenes like that but those few scenes were very intense and graphic (not just visually but the sound effects too so closing your eyes won’t be enough).

Movie of the Week: Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part II

(Spoilers abound so you’ve been warned)
It would have been pretty hard for them to screw up the second part of Deathly Hallows.  They got all the boring walking, arguing and trying to explain things like Horcruxes and Deathly Hallows out-of-the-way in the first part.  All that was left were the action set pieces.  Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows was the first book I thought J.K. Rowling wrote with an eye on how it would look on the big screen.  How else could you explain a series that was pretty low on action for the most part ending with a battle that could only be compared to Helms Deep in The Two Towers?

I thought Yates (directing his fourth Potter) did a great job with most of the action pieces.  It was also good to see some of the Hogwarts staff which had been relegated to the background for the last few movies finally have some moments to shine, particularly Maggie Smith (Minerva McGonagall) and Warwick Davis (Filius Flitwick and Griphook).  The all-important Snape backstory was filmed a little over-dramatically but worked mostly because of Alan Rickman’s performance. Continue reading

Movie of (Last) Week: Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels Of A Tribe Called Quest

It’s hard for me to review Beats, Rhymes and Life because of how the documentary made me feel.  Every time I started to piece together what I would write about this movie, I got lost in my feelings of nostalgia for A Tribe Called Quest and being a hip-hop fan in the 90’s.  A Tribe Called Quest was my favorite hip-hop group growing up.  This was probably the first documentary I saw where I found myself either saying to myself, “I remember that” or “I did that” or “I remember what I was doing then.”  There’s a scene where ?uestlove talks about the date Midnight Marauders was released and I thought about a recent post I wrote about cutting art class to buy it and listening to it on the bus ride home.  I remember trying to tape the Red Alert show to catch the newest shit (seeing how old Red Alert looked now made me feel real old).There were magazines I owned, photo shoots I remember, concerts I wished I had gotten a chance to attend.  This was a cinematic trip down memory lane.

As a fan of Tribe Called Quest, it was sad to see Q-Tip and Phife go at it while Ali Shaheed Muhammad and sometimes Jarobi just watched and shook their heads but I’m glad I did see it.  When they broke up, I always knew there was some conflict but not to the extent that we saw (although there was a lot of he said/he said).

I think Michael Rappaport did a great job for a first time director (some of his camera angles and lingering close-ups showed his inexperience).  There were things I wish were discussed (“Scenario”, more on how the Midnight Mauraderscover came together, the origin of the red, green and black woman on the album covers) but I’m just nitpicking. This was a great love letter to the group and to 90’s hip-hop culture as a whole and can’t wait to see it again.

Movie of the Week: Kung Fu Panda 2

Kung Fu Panda 2 was entertaining but, like most animated sequels, unnecessary.

For the most part, the movie worked. I laughed when they wanted me to laugh. The animation during the fight sequences, which was the best part of the first in my honest opinion, was still top-notch. I think I can only tolerate Jack Black as Po. The plot was pointless. It was like a video game. Po and the Furious Five make it up to the main boss, Lord Shen (Gary Oldman). Po freezes, gets defeated. This happens three time until Po finally beats the game.

If this movie never happened, I would have never clamored for it like, “Gee, why don’t they make a sequel to that?” Aside from one line (which I thought was really clever), I pretty much forgot everything about this movie in 30 minutes.

Maybe I’ll feel differently when it’s on TV all the time.

Movie of the Week: Super 8

Super 8 reminded me of the kind of movies that seemed to be abundant when I was younger: a bunch of kids dealing with a situation that was WAY over their head. This movie, which has been the best movies I’ve seen this summer thus far, would fit in perfectly with E.T. The Extra Terrestrial,  D.A.R.Y.L. and The Goonies.
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Movie of the Week: X-Men: First Class

When I first heard they were making X-Men: First Class, I had absolutely no interest in seeing it. The X-Men franchise, which started out great, had fooled me twice with X-Men: The Last Stand (which should have been my last stand) and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Then the trailers started coming out and I became intrigued. The more news I read and video I saw, the more I wanted to see it. So cheers to the advertising and PR campaign for the film. When the final credits rolled, I wasn’t completely disappointed but if I had gone with my initial feelings and caught it on Netflix, I wouldn’t have felt that bad.

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