Friday, December 11, 2015

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 And The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2" and the DVDs "Tomorrowland" and "The Secret in Their Eyes."  The Book of the Week is "Happier at Home," Gretchen Rubin's second "Happiness Project." I also bring you up-to-date with my "1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "Blue is the Warmest Color."]





The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2




The war in Panem continues and Katniss Everdeen seeks to kill President Snow.

This fourth (and thank god, last) installment of "The Hunger Games" films literally begins where the last film ended. And I can't tell you how miffed I was at Mockingjay Part I for leaving me hanging for another year or so. So by the time I saw this one, I had forgotten what went on in the last film.  I am not a fan of having to do my homework before going to see a film.

Anyway, Katniss is still being used as a propaganda tool by the rebels to get the loyalists to drop their weapons and join them to take over the Capitol.  Meanwhile, Peta (Josh Hutcherson) is still suffering from the effects of the brainwashing that took place in the last film and hates Katniss (which was the whole point of the brainwashing), but they still team up with the other members of her squad to get to the Capitol.  As her team members are killed off, Katniss vows to kill Snow.

Speaking of Katniss, Jennifer Lawrence, as good an actress as she is, is just sleepwalking through this thing.  Even she seems to be thinking, "Let's get this thing over with already!" She has one expression throughout - "concerned."

Julianne Moore is a cartoon as President Coin and Donald Sutherland as Snow chews the scenery in his usual competent way.  Woody Harrelson and Philip Seymour Hoffman are wasted and I am not talking about Harrelson's well-known proclivities.

You know how I feel about sequels.  Well, this one is a sequel to a sequel - and that's even worse.  I didn't really like Mockingjay Part I that much and this one is even worse.  It was actually boring.  Part I and Part 2 of Mockingjay could easily have been cut down and made into one movie and that might have been an improvement.  As it is here, they used a lot of close-ups of the actors looking concerned to fill the time, and the film just plodded.  It also turned into more of a horror film than the dystopian thriller that began the series.  There was something interesting and exciting about young people hunting each other.  Now it has all just deteriorated into a combination of horror and war clichés.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I think even hardcore "Hunger Games" fans will be disappointed with this one, despite the fact it ties up all of the loose ends.



Some Movies You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!


***Now Out on DVD***





Tomorrowland (2015)


Former boy genius John Francis Walker and teenager Casey Newton defy time and space to find Tomorrowland and save the world.

The film begins with Frank Walker (George Clooney) having a dialogue with an unseen voice.  We see a close-up of Frank saying "This is a story about the future...and the future is scary."

"When I was a kid, the future was different. We were all about the future." 

And that's true.  Who of us of a certain age don't remember the excitement when Disneyland added Tomorrowland to the park?  Growing up in the 50's and 60's, everyone wanted to go into space.  So it's no surprise this is a Disney film.  But the film is not about Disneyland or Disney's Tomorrowland. It's about disappointment, hope and the end of the world.

Flashback to a young Frank at the 1964 World's Fair.  He is a happy, optimistic kid inventor.

Frank goes to the Hall of Invention where  Professor Nix (Hugh Laurie) is a science fair judge.  Nix is blown away by our young Frank's jetpack.  A little girl approaches Frank - her name is Athena (Raffey Cassidy) - and she asks him "Did you make this yourself?  Why?" to which Frank replies, "I got tired of waiting around for someone to do it for me."  Athena leads Frank to a secret part of the Fair where he experiences some robots and other strange futuristic phenomenon and Athena gives Frank a mysterious pin.

And then we hear the grown-up Frank say "And then it all went to hell."

Turns out Frank, now grown up, disappointed and cynical, was talking to someone that circumstance had brought to him.

Enter Casey (Brit Robertson), a badass young woman doing some protest mischief at Cape Canaveral.  The space program has been defunded and her Dad (Tim McGraw) is out of work.  She gets arrested and when she is released and gets her personal affects, there is that same pin that Athena gave Frank.  She checks Ebay to find out about the pin, finds an address and decides to go there. Turns out that pin has magical powers to transport people to Tomorrowland, a place where anything is possible. 

And everyone wants to get in on the action including the Men in Black, the mysterious Athena who makes another appearance and Hugo (Keegan-Michael Key), the owner of a shop called "The Blast from the Past" where Casey is led after her search on Ebay. This last bit is a funny scene that is one of the highlights of the film. 

Athena takes Casey to meet the now grown-up Frank who is disillusioned and predicting the end of the world.  If they want to save it, they must all go back to the future to Tomorrowland where Nix is now the resident misguided baddie.

It took forever for this film to get started - 40 minutes to be exact but once it kicked in, it grabbed me.  However, if you are expecting this to be a full-blown George Clooney film, think again.  It's not.  After the opening sequence, he doesn't show up for another hour.

But it is obviously a Clooney labor of love because he goes on a rant at the end about our civilization being negative and wanting to believe the worst and giving up.  Why bother to save the environment when there is nothing we can do anyway?  It's a bit of a simplistic, heavy handed diatribe on the importance of optimism and hope that was so in your face that it brought the film down a bit. However, it's a good film for kids to see, especially little girls because  Robertson and Cassidy are plucky girls who do a great job showing that girls can be scientists, they can be fearless and they can make their own future.

Written by Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof and directed by Bird, who also did the latest impressive "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation," this film is reminiscent of "Back to the Future," though it lacked that film's finesse and humor. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...a sci-fi fantasy that budding scientists and their parents will enjoy.






The Secret in their Eyes


A retired court investigator is writing a novel about an unresolved rape and murder case that still haunts him.  As he gets involved in the case once again, he gets in over his head.

This film should not be confused with the film of the same title out in theatres now. The current film starring Julia Roberts is an English language version of this one, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film back in 2010. 

Now I feel a bit of a rant coming on.

I always have a problem with English language remakes of foreign language films that were perfectly wonderful films.  The original, the Swedish version, of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is a case in point. It made Noomi Rapace a star.  Why make it again?  And now this film.  It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 2010.  Why do we need another version of this starring Julia Roberts?  OK, Americans don't like to read subtitles.  But we even do it with British movies and TV shows, "Broadchurch" being another example.  "Broadchurch" was a wonderful crime drama starring David Tennant that showed on BBCAmerica. We remade it here in the U.S. as "Gracepoint," an American remake of the exact same story that played on the Fox channel and even had David Tennant star in it and it wasn't nearly as good.  Explain that to me when we could have just rebroadcasted "Broadchurch" on Fox.

Anyway, sorry for my rant but I have a thing about that.

But let's get to this original version of "The Secret in Their Eyes."

Benjamin (Ricardo Darin), a retired court investigator in Buenos Aires wants to write a novel about a 25-year-old unresolved rape and murder that still haunts him.  He is secretly in love with Irene (Soledad Villamil), a judge who had been his colleague when the murder occurred.  Two workmen were suspected of the murder but Benjamin was never fully convinced they were the murderers.  He decides to look into the case again as he writes his novel and he meets up with Irene again to tell her about his book and renewed investigation.  He is aided by his drunken partner, Sandoval (the excellent Guillermo Francella).

Benjamin had his own idea about who the killer was after seeing a man in a group picture that included the rape victim.  The man is looking at her in a way that sparks Benjamin's suspicions, as if he can see "the secret in his eyes."  Twenty-five years later we see a similar picture of Benjamin looking at Irene.  Does the first picture reflect the murder in the killer's eyes?  Does the second picture reflect Benjamin's unrequited love?

Director Juan Jose Campanella moves the story back and forth in time from the politically repressed years of the 1970's in Argentina when the murder occurred and when Irene and Benjamin first met to the present (2000) when Irene and Benjamin meet up again.  It's a murder mystery, a political thriller and an unconventional love story with a very Hitchcockian feel.  The love affair aspect can be frustrating at times, because Benjamin is a grown man who loves Irene but never says anything and you can tell she cares for him too.  So why don't they say something and get on with it?

However, that aside, the film is mostly riveting and beautifully acted by Darin and Villamil, whose abilities make us believe them as their younger selves as well as 25 years later. 

So as I said, there was no need to make this film again. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...I have not seen the remake of this but it's difficult to imagine it could be better than this one.  See this one first.





***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***


267 to go!

Have YOU Seen this classic film?




Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)



Young Adele meets Emma, an artist with blue hair, and they fall in love.

Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos) is a student with lots of friends and boyfriends, but she is questioning her sexuality.  When she goes to a gay bar she meets Emma (Lea Seydoux, who made a splash recently in the latest James Bond film "Spectre") an artist, an older woman with striking blue hair.  They begin a sexual relationship.

Emma is clearly the more sophisticated of the two.  She talks to Adele about Sartre, introduces her to oysters and they march in a gay pride parade together. But as their relationship progresses, it becomes apparent that they both come from two different worlds. Adele goes on a journey of sexual exploration and learns the meaning of love, commitment and loss.

This is an adaptation of the graphic novel by Julie Maroh adapted by director Abdellatif Kechiche along with Ghalia LacroixIt's beautiful to look at and the acting is first rate.  It won the Palm D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013.

However, the sex scenes are extraordinarily explicit and one might ask why is this necessary?  Is a movie good because it pushes the limits of explicitness?  And there is lots of it. This is a three-hour movie. Way too long.  Without those extended sex scenes, it might have just been two!  Also, with that fine line between what is pornographic and what is artistic, one can't help but wonder about the prurient being drawn to this film with little interest in the artistic side of it.

Why it's a Must See:  "[This film]...smashed taboos at every turn...[But] to focus on the sex scenes is to betray the extraordinary strength of a writer/director who understands the nature of drama, from how long to show a scene to when to cut...But above all else, it's a study of the complexity of romantic and sexual obsession...[Director Abdellatif] Kechiche's confidence to hold our gaze with sex scenes, breakup scenes, and all the seemingly insignificant moments in between, results in a riveting film that demands and rewards our attention."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

What "1001 Movies..." believes is the strength of this film, I'm sorry to say, is its greatest hindrance.  For one thing, it's three hours long which for most films is probably too long unless you are talking about "Gone With the Wind," and some people have an issue with that one too.  But for a film about a romance, it's way too long and those long, lingering shots that are mentioned are the  main problem.  I say Kechiche didn't cut enough.  For example, do we need to see a character walk the entire length of a hallway in real time with absolutely nothing happening except she is walking down a hall?  Or do we need to watch someone sleep for about two minutes?  I usually love French films, but I am not a fan of those long lingering shots of people doing nothing or where they stare off into space contemplating their navels.

What I did like was the cinema verite feel as Adele interacted with her fellow students in a realistic and casual fashion.  It had a "you are there" feel as these young people went about their business at school and at home. So writer/director Kechiche should be congratulated for his screenplay which is realistic and poignant.  However, rumor had it that he was a hard task master as a director on Exarchopoulos and Seydoux and both have vowed never to work with him again.

And speaking of Exarchopoulos and Seydoux, they are both lovely actresses, which could explain why Kechiche used those long lingering close-ups of them so much, but that is not to discount that both are also exceedingly good actresses who make you believe in their relationship.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a poignant coming of age story that could have been an hour shorter.
(In French with English subtitles)



***The Book of the Week***





Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life by Gretchen Rubin (2013)


Rubin continues her "Happiness Project" but this time focuses closer to "home."

Last month I reviewed Rubin's first "happiness project" where she sought to make her life happier by dedicating each month of the year to a theme she could work on- friendship, work, etc.  From that she worked out her "general theories of happiness."  

But now in her second foray into the realm of happiness, Rubin wanted to build on what she had already learned but this time as happiness related to "home:" relationships, possessions, time, body and neighborhood.

In her first project, this is what she learned:

  • Accept myself, and expect more of myself
  • Give myself limits to give myself freedom
  • Make people happier by acknowledging that they're not feeling happy
  • Plan ahead to be spontaneous
  • Accomplish more by working less
  • Happiness doesn't always make me FEEL happy
  • Flawed can be more perfect than perfection
  • It's very hard to make things easier
  • My material desired have a spiritual aspect.
  • Hell is other people.  Heaven is other people.

Whew!

(For more on that, go check our her first book from the library).

So she learned all of that.  Why start another happiness project?

She decided that concentrating on happiness was a good thing so why not?

As she had with her first project, she gave herself a goal for each month, starting with "Possessions," which basically involved not becoming a slave to them, keeping those that were important and getting rid of those that no longer served her.  She also learned that if you want your stuff to work right, "read the manual."  As the months went on, she worked on her marriage by kissing her husband more, was a better parent because she chose to "underreact to a problem," and tried acupuncture to help her body.

There are many positive tips here for your own happiness project that concentrates on your home, family and neighbors, but...

Rosy the Reviewer says...for those of us in the glass half-empty club, happiness sounds like a lot of work! 

That's it for this week!

Thanks for Reading!

See you Tuesday for

"My Top 10 Best (and Must See) Films of 2015



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1 comment :

  1. I just cannot get into the fantasy stuff tho my goddaughter wants me to see the Hunger Game series. But then, when she was little she wanted me to see "Titanic" with her even tho I kept saying "we all know how this ends and it ain't pretty".

    I do want to see The Secret In Their Eyes. Glad you clued me in to the remake which was a possibility but now NOT.

    I never could understand many of the remakes of foreign films either. As much as I loved Robin Williams I don't think the american version of La Cage aux Folles was as good. I loved the original.

    sazzy

    ReplyDelete