Showing posts with label Grave of the Fireflies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grave of the Fireflies. Show all posts

Friday, December 5, 2014

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part I" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part I," the DVDs "Ida" and "Tammy" and the book "The Portlandia Cookbook." I will also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" - and there is one this week you will NOT want to miss!  I also have an "A-HA Moment" to share]

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part I

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is back in Part III of "The Hunger Games" series.  After being rescued from the destroyed arena from Part II, she is now in an underground community with the District 13 rebels.  They need someone to be a symbol of the rebellion - the Mockingjay - so that the other districts will be inspired to join them in taking over the Capitol.
However, Katnis does not want to help the District 13 rebellion, because they did not save Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) from the arena, but when she sees the destruction done to District 12 and later, the capitol's merciless bombing of a hospital housing innocent women and children, Katniss relents.  And when she discovered that Peeta has been brainwashed and is being used as propaganda for the bad guys, saving Peeta is one of her conditions for becoming the "Mockingjay."
Anyway, I think that's what this third installment of the franchise is about.
Whether it's "Star Wars" or "The Hunger Games," I have a problem with these movie series that have several sequels in order to continue the story, especially when you have to remember what happened in the last movie to get up to speed for the present one.  By the time Part II of this one comes out, I will have forgotten Part I.  I am not a fan of having to do my homework before I see a film so that I will know what is going on.  It's like going to see an opera where reading the libretto is usually a good idea.  Likewise here, unless you have read the books, you should probably remind yourself of what happened in the first two films.  And if you didn't see the first two films, you won't know what's going on either.
So you should probably bone up.
You are very welcome.
But since the first hour of this latest installment is quite boring and drab, it really wasn't a problem for me to spend some of that time trying to remember where the last installment left off.  Things pick up during the last half and the theme that permeates this series - the power of the media as propaganda - is till a major focus of the film.  It ends, however, leaving us hanging once again as movies with sequels are wont to do.  So that means when Part II comes out, I will have to try to remember what happened in Part I.  Sigh.
Julianne Moore plays the President of District 13 and Philip Seymour Hoffman, looking much better than he did in "A Most Wanted Man, (which I reviewed last week) returns as Plutarch Heavensbee, sadly in his last role before his death.  Liam Hemsworth handsomely returns as the lovelorn Gale and Donald Sutherland as President Snow.  Elizabeth Banks (Effie) and Woody Harrelson (Haymitch) also return, but don't have much more to do than stand around.
Jennifer Lawrence is always good and she has some chances to show off her acting chops, but I think this franchise has run out of steam especially with the "Divergent" series nipping at its heels.
Rosy the Reviewer says...the hardcore "Hunger Games" fans will probably eat this up, but for me none of the sequels have been a good as the first installment.
You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)

Ida (2013)

Right before taking her vows, a young Polish novitiate nun discovers a dark secret about her past.

Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) was abandoned as a baby and has been raised in a convent.  She is now 18 and ready to take her vows, but the Mother Superior sends her to see an Aunt she never knew she had.  Her aunt, Wanda  (Agata Kulesca) was a hard-bitten judge and now is a hard-drinking, bitter, promiscuous woman who sneers at Anna when she tells her that her real name is Ida, she is Jewish and her parents were killed in WW II.  But the two set out on a road trip through a bleak, black and white 1960's Poland to discover what happened to Ida's parents.
This is a strange little road trip cum buddy film with the innocent Ida and the world weary Wanda traveling back into the sad Jewish history of WW II Poland.  Filmed in black and white and with minimal dialog and a lingering camera, Director Pawel Pawlikowski (his first film in his native Poland) captures the sadness and hardness of post-WW II experienced by so many.

Trzebuchowska is a newcomer reminiscent of Jessica Chastain and beautifully captures the innocence of someone who has only known convent life.  Kulesca likewise is beautiful in her role but as an opposite - someone who was a judge for Stalin and now a lonely woman of a certain age, has known the dark side of life.

This film reminded me of the neo-realist films of Roberto Rossellini and the early French New Wave.

There is buzz around this film being nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language film.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Haunting.
(b & w with subtitles)

Tammy (2014)

Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) is kind of a loser.  Well, not kind of.  She is, and after losing her job and catching her husband cheating, she hits the road with her booze swilling grandma (Susan Sarandon).
Tammy is having a really bad day.  She hits a deer on the way to work, gets fired for being late and mouthing off to her boss (Ben Falcone) and when she gets home, finding her husband having a romantic dinner with another woman - and he prepared the meal.  Something he never did for Tammy.  Tammy leaves him to go to her mother's (two doors down) - her grandma also lives there - and Tammy and her grandma decide to get the hell out of Dodge, well, Illinois actually, and go to Niagara Falls, something Grandma has always wanted to see.
This is a sort of buddy film cum road movie and with Sarandon in it, one can't help but think there is a little nod and a wink to "Thelma and Louise."  But if so, this movie doesn't even come close.
Grandma likes the booze and they start out drinking beer and doing wheelies in a field - a filmic bit to show their newfound freedom, I guess.  However, I think I said out loud, "Who does that?"  And it was all down hill from there.
McCarthy made a name for herself in "Bridesmaids" and has perfected the role of the smart-talking, foul-mouthed agile fat girl ever since.  As funny as McCarthy can be, she can't save this mess. Obviously it was written and directed as a showcase for McCarthy (she and her husband Falcone wrote the screenplay).  Every scene is a set up for her to do a gag.  But unfortunately, the gags are not funny and some of them are darn right semi-offensive, as when she grabs her crotch on the way to rob a fast food place.
Falcone directed this star-studded cast:  In addition to Sarandon, Allison Janney, Toni Colette (who has gotten way to skinny - she looks like a skeleton), Kathy Bates, Dan Ackroyd and Sandra Oh in what can only be called "cameos."  What they are doing in this thing is anybody's guess.  Someone must have called in some favors.
The best thing about this movie is the soundtrack.
Rosy the Reviewer says...really terrible.  Avoid.

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


295 to go!

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

An orphaned young boy and his little sister struggle to survive in WW II Japan.

Seita and his little sister, Setsuko, are forced from their village after a firestorm of bombs rains down and destroys it.  With their father serving in the military and their mother killed by a bomb, the two must make their way alone.  An aunt takes them in but she is cruel to them, so Seita decides they will live on their own in a nearby cave.

If "Hello Kitty" is any indication, the Japanese seem to love really cute little characters and the little girl in this film, Setsuko, is about as adorable as any character can get.  You will not be able to resist her.

Why it's a Must See:  "With an attention to craft and design absent from so much mainstream Western animation, several Japanese animators have subverted the traditionally child-oriented nature of cartoons...into grand achievements equal to any big budget, live-action [this] readily attests, sometimes these animated films actually surpass their live-action equivalents, finding narrative freedom, emotional honesty, and a greater sense of artistic control on the plane of a two-dimensional set."
---"1001 Movie You Must See Before You Die"

If you cried when Bambi's mother was killed or when Dumbo was reunited with his caged mother, you will definitely blubber through this one. This is no kiddie cartoon. This is the story of the innocent victims of war with gorgeous visuals and a haunting soundtrack.  I never thought I would like anime, let alone feel so strongly about it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a masterpiece, not just of anime, but a masterpiece.  I'm so glad I saw this one before I died.  You will be too.

Gomorrah (2008)

An inside look at the little known Camorra.
The Camorra is the Neapolitan Mafia and this is a grim account of that world.  This is not the romanticized version of mob life that we have seen in "The Godfather."  This is no Hollywood version of the mob.  This is grittier, dirtier and much more violent in its lack of respect for human life.

The main story follows two teenagers who know "Scarface" by heart and see this life as a way to have women and money, but there are other characters and stories interwoven, so much so that it's difficult at times to know who is doing what to whom.  There are no big stars and the film is so matter-of-fact, it feels like a documentary, a very scary documentary where human life is cheap and violence is just a day in the life.
Why it's a Must See: "The film opens with a Mob hit and then drops us into the [little known] physical world of the Camorra -- the actual Neapolitan Mafia...[Director] Garrone a bloody finale that while expected is nonetheless shocking. [The film explores] the Camorrista fascination with Hollywood gangsters, especially Brian De Palma's Scarface (1983)...This underworld mirror of mainstream civilization -- determined by mass media images, legal transgressions, and violence -- has a biting sense of humor that lingers long after Gomorra's conclusion."
---"1001 Movie You Must See Before You Die"
This film won the Grand Prize at Cannes in 2008 and was a blockbuster hit in Europe, but was snubbed for an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.  I am not surprised.  This film is not for everyone.  It's all about bad guys, bad guys and more bad guys.
Based on a book by Roberto Saviano, it exposes this little known group and since publication Saviano has needed round the clock police protection.
Rosy the Reviewer says...Unsentimental, depressing and bleak.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

***Book of the Week***

The Portlandia Cookbook by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein (2014)

A companion cookbook to the TV show "Portlandia" starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein who make loving fun of Portland.

You will find such recipes as "Wild Mushroom and Artichoke Tartines," and "Claire's Co-Worker's Sichuan Chicken Wings (which are delicious, by the way)," Claire being one of many of Brownstein's characters on the show (Claire and Doug binge watch TV series - Don't tell them how it ends!), and a "contributor" along with all of the other characters who will be recognizable by fans of the show such as:  Peter and Nance, our politically correct couple who only eat locally sourced food, Spyke, the intense bicycle rights advocate, and the role reversal couple, Nina & Lance (Armisen is Nina and Brownstein is Lance).

Recipes are accompanied by "Portlandia tips," such as how to eat at a communal table ("No matter how nice they seem, please do not request to try a bite of your neighbor's food"), how to throw a locavore dinner party and a guide to picking a table at a restaurant ("When you go to a restaurant, you have a move from table to table. Do not be afraid to constantly move around [if things like a vent blowing on you bothers you or the sun is in your eyes]. In case you are seated at an uneven, rocking table, we recommend bringing a wedge of wood with you to the restaurant.")

Rosy the Reviewer says...Fans of the show and of Portland will get the quirky humor, others may not, but the recipes are surprisingly good.

***My A-HA Moment of the Week***

Remember my post right after my birthday last year where I said I was going to make one change per month to make a BIG change in my life?

(Read about it right here)

Well, so far, I managed to make it through one month where I didn't drink the same coffee drink but that's about it.  Last month I was supposed to walk Tarquin, my little wine-guzzling poodle, every day and I think I took him out twice.

So what's the "A-HA Moment?"

I am crap at making changes to my life.  Poor Tarquin.

Thanks for Reading!


That's it for this week.


See you Tuesday for

"My Favorite Movies, DVDs, TV Shows and Books of 2014 (and some I hated).




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