Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, & Liam Hemsworth
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I watch a lot of movies and I also read a lot of books. Far and away my favorite book series is The Hunger Games, and I've always appreciated the fact that the films have been nearly identical page for page representations of the books. I also love how the cast has always fit into their roles as if they were written just for them. People who never read the books, assume that all four movies are about this strange war game, and they couldn't be more wrong. The games are just a part of the story and are what ultimately spark the people to rebel against an oppressive government. What the Hunger Games is really about, is pushing your limits to become something more than you ever thought possible. In the spectacular finally of the series, the Civil War is on and it will take a dangerous mission into the capital to bring it to an end. Part 2, is just as exciting and well done as the other films with one exception, and that's why it's the only one of the four films to receive less than a perfect rating. Mockingjay was only one book, but they split it in two for the sake of making more money from another film. While this was a good idea to the film company, the fact is that there wasn't enough substance left for the final movie. Some scenes were rushed, while others moved to slow, and for the first time, whole sections, such as Katniss's training and newly formed bond with Joanne, were completely removed. While the film was excellent, I feel as though it was somewhat rushed and that the continuity was not as solid as it had been in previous films. That being said, it's still an epic conclusion and if you aren't already aware of the ending, you'll certainly be shocked and surprised by what happens, so while it's not the best of the four films, it's still well worth your time.

The Barber (2015)

Starring: Scott Glenn & Chris Coy
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars

They say that serial killers are driven to kill and are unable to stop, but Eugene Van Wingerdt (Scott Glenn) did stop. He stopped nearly thirty years ago and moved away to a small town, where he became the local barber and beloved member of the local community. One day, out of the blue, the son of the cop who originally investigated his crimes, tracks him down. The cop, posing as a budding serial killer, wants advice from Eugene, who continuing to claim he's not who the boy thinks he is. Eugene feels sorry for him and forms a bond with the young man, trying to lead him away from a life of crime, but as he does, will those old feelings come back to the surface, or is Eugene really just a misunderstood old man? The premise of the new independent film, The Barber, is certainly unique and to me it seemed as though there were many different directions this film could have gone in, but the path chosen, was the road less traveled, and the result was just a really boring and predictable story. This is one of those film where nothing really happens until the end, and by that point, the viewer is just so bored and sick of the whole thing that they just want it to be over. Scott Glenn stars and is far too old to be believable. I can understand wanting to be active and not simply take on the role of grandpa, but a mentor for a serial killer, it just doesn't fit. Glenn is paired with newcomer Chris Coy, who honestly couldn't act his way into a high school play, much less play a character with duel personalities. By the end of this film, I literally cringed every time the guy opened his mouth. The story here is solid, but the way producers go about telling it and the people they cast to star in it leave a lot to be desired.


Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, & Lea Seydoux
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Spy films are a dime a dozen, so what makes James Bond so special? Is it the fight scenes, the crafty villains, his style, or maybe just all of it combined? James Bond time means time to try new things in film, which is why even twenty-four films later, the story is still fresh and the character is still relevant. Spectre may be no different in terms of James Bond on a mission to stop a madman from destroying the world, but each film is different in the way it is shot, and each Director and actor brings their own take, style, and personality to the series. Spectre is a lot more audience friendly and lot easier to follow than many previous Bond films, but what made this one really special was the unique action sequences that I've never seen anywhere else. The balcony and helicopter scenes alone are enough to get any action junkies blood pumping. In film number twenty-four, James Bond is following up on the events in Skyfall, trying to find out who killed M. During his investigation he discovers something a lot bigger, an underground global terror network, that is responsible for many of the missions he's had to go on. Daniel Craig is of course fantastic and I still content that he is far and away the best Bond ever, but in this film, he meets a villain who may be one of the best villains ever. There is just something about Christoph Waltz that makes audiences hang on his every word. We first saw it in Inglorious Bastards six years ago, and since then he's only gotten better. The chemistry and friction between the two characters and the two actors trying to one up each other is nothing short of spectacular. While many fans of the series don't like how modern it's become, I feel as though the series is re-inventing itself with each film, and Spectre, is definitely among the most unique and special in the series.

The Hurt Locker

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, & Brian Geraghty
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I have never really enjoyed war films. I am by no means a pacifist, but to me all the stories seem to be the same, and until now, I've been uninterested. It wasn't until viewing the Academy's best picture of 2010, The Hurt Locker, that I started to see things differently. In these films, it's not so much the story line that matters, but rather the characters that are featured in the film. The description of The Hurt Locker is just as bland as any other war picture, the story of a unit in Iraq that is responsible for disarming explosives. What makes this film so unique and made it the best film of 2010 was William James, played remarkably well by Jeremy Renner. Renner is known as an action star, so when I saw him nominated for best actor, I couldn't believe it. The truth is Renner's performance in this film was outstanding, because for once, he simply played himself. Renner may have been portraying a Sargent in Iraq, but the personality was his own. Director, Kathryn Bigelow, has become known for letting actors be themselves in developing their characters personalities, to the point where even some of the dialogue was in the spur of the moment. The Hurt Locker is a powerful film, with remarkable events and heartbreaking moments, but it's the films personality that is larger than life. I enjoyed every second of this film and it was truly the best choice the Academy could have made for best picture.

Love The Coopers

Starring: Diane Keaton, John Goodman, & Ed Helms
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Over the past decade, we've seen a recent phenomenon in film, where producers cast many big names in a clip film, that all comes together in the end. While this may work well with superheroes, it has yet to be successful in regards to comedy. That is why the film, Love The Coopers can be defined with one saying, too many cooks in the kitchen. This film features a large and impressive cast, and the previews looked terrific, but I assure you, Ed Helm's little girl calling him a dick, is just about the only truly funny moment in this film. The story here has a lot of different angles, and they do come together quite nicely, but this film is not what it was intended to be, as the last thing I would refer to it as is a hilarious holiday film. A lot of people are going to see this film because of it's cast, and from young Timothee Chalamet to veteran Alan Arkin, this cast is remarkable, however the story is not, in fact this whole film was fairly dull. I expect a lot from the cast, but even Hollywood's best and brightest can't make a film work when the writing just isn't there. I love the concept and I really wanted to like this film, but in the end it's just a big disappointment.

The 100

Starring: Eliza Taylor, Bob Morley, Marie Avgeropoulos, Thomas McDonell, Christopher Larkin, Devon Bostick, Paige Turco, Henry Ian Cusick, Kelly Hu, Eli Goree, Isaiah Washington, & Richard Harmon

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

From the beginning of the series, the 100 had three strikes against it, making its success seem almost miraculous. This show is based on a trilogy of novels, in most cases the show/film is never as good as the books, but in this case it's better. Second, the show was a mid-summer replacement, something that almost never makes it passed it's first season, and finally it's on the CW, so most people assume it's just another teen drama, but the 100 is a lot more than that. The reason this show has survived and the reason it's been named one of the best shows on television that you're not watching, is because of it's terrific story lines, deep characters, and unique make up. When Entertainment Weekly said it's the most underrated shows on television they weren't kidding.

150 years in the future, Earth has been all but destroyed by World War 3, and the remains of the human race, the lucky decedents of people who escaped the cataclysm, live on a space station called the Ark. Resources on the Ark are extremely limited and for that reason, crime is met with death, unless you're under the age of eighteen, in that case the punishment is imprisonment. After nearly 100 years in space, the Ark is dying and the leaders know their only hope for survival is to return to Earth, but can they withstand the radiation? In order to test this, they decide to send 100 of the least violent juvenile offenders down to the planet as test subjects. As the kids set up camp and learn to live on the planet, their accomplishments quickly take a backseat when they learn, they are not alone.

Most TV shows that are based on books, never seem to be able to capture the essence of the main characters and for that reason people never really get a complete look at what the author intended. In the 100 saga, the skilled actors and the tremendous writing allow you to connect to characters in a way that goes above and beyond the original story. This is a show that also has many sub-plots, it's not simply about the kids on earth, the people in space, and the survivors on the planet. the viewer learns backstory through flashbacks and knows every character and their history intimately. As I watched this show, I really felt as though I was a member of this camp and I knew everybody, only a great show can accomplish this. 

This is a show that is so much more than just another CW teen drama, it is a look into the new direction the network is taking with shows like Arrow & The Flash. The 100 is a continuous story that you will not be able to stop watching. It is intense, exciting, and has more depth to the story than any show I've seen in a long time. If you can get over the fact that its a CW show and prominently features a group of teenagers, you will see one of the most interesting and dynamic science fiction shows to air on network television in years.