Friday, March 30, 2012

Weekly Movie #13

The Hunger Games
Director: Gary Ross
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Lenny Kravitz
Released: March 23, 2012
Viewed in theaters: March 26, 2012

I, like most everyone else in the country, have read The Hunger Games trilogy. I really loved the first book, still enjoyed the second book as though it wasn't as good as the first, and was heavily disappointed by the final one. I didn't like that one because it didn't have the same flow as the first two and I was really angry and baffled at a certain character's death. I mean, I know a lot of people die in these books, but I didn't understand why Suzanne Collins chose to kill off this particular one.

The Hunger Games is what you would get if you combined the short story, "The Lottery" with the reality show, Survivor, and the Japanese movie, Battle Royale. Oh, and throw the Olympics in there as well. The parade of the tributes, the personal stories, and the training reminded me of the Olympics. The film (and book) takes place in a dystopian future where the United States no longer exists and is now a place called Panem. It doesn't specify when in the future it takes place, but I'm guessing a couple hundred years.  

Panem consists of the Capitol, which is really wealthy and where the Hunger Games are held. Also, part of Panem are twelve districts that each have their own specialty (mining, agriculture, fishing, technology, transportation, etc.) and the higher the number, the poorer the district. Our heroine, Katniss Everdeen, lives in District 12 - the poorest district. The citizens have to hunt for their own food and trade their goods for others. Even though the film takes place in the future, there were times when it looked like it took place in the past!

The Hunger Games have been going on for 74 years and it's something the Capitol (aka the Government) came up with to show that they are in charge, pretty much, and they won't tolerate other people rebelling against them or making their own rules. Each year a boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen from each district at the annual Reaping to fight in the Games (and it's done by drawing names ala "The Lottery") and they must fight to the death and the last one standing is the winner.

Katniss's sister, Prim, is the female tribute from District 12 who is picked, despite this being her first  Reaping and Katniss volunteers to take her place in order to save her sister. This is one of the most powerful scenes in the movie and it definitely got me choked up! Peeta (Hutcherson) is the male tribute chosen and they're mentored by the only former winner of the Hunger Games from District 12, Haymitch (Harrelson). 

After the 24 contestants have been trained and prepped, they're put into a terrain that's controlled by the Capitol. They all stand on individual platforms and there's a huge pile of weapons out in the open they can grab. Haymitch has advised his tributes not to grab anything because most of the tributes are killed in the first few seconds of the games. Katniss, the accomplished archer, sees a bow and and arrow, but forgoes it for a nearby backpack filled with supplies instead.  

This is how it reminded me of Survivor: not only is this being shown on TV as the world's most effed-up reality show, but they do things you'd see on Survivor - build fires, make alliances, catch food (and sometimes they even "win" food and supplies), make shelter, etc. 

And then you add in the whole middle school and high school-aged kids killing each other with whatever weapons they can get their hands on, and you have the plot of Battle Royale

It's been over a year since I've read the book, but I thought the movie did a good job of following it. Everything that happened in the film, I remembered reading in the book. The character of Gale, Katniss's friend from District 12 really has nothing to do. He's just there to look jealous when he sees Katniss kiss Peeta on TV during the games. 

Apparently there have been some uproar on Twitter with really stupid and really racist people having a hissyfit because the actress who plays Rue, the young girl in the Games from District 11 that Kat allies with, is black. I don't know why they are getting so angry over this  - anyone who actually read the books should know that the character is black. I believe the author describes her as "dark-skinned" so maybe these idiots thought she was white with a tan? I don't know, but it's really stupid how these morons are acting. 

Well, I think it's really cool that both Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson are fans of the books and got to play two major characters (well, duh since Jennifer plays the main character!) in the movie. If I were an actor, I would love to play a character in one of my favorite books. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Natural Born Killers

Bonnie and Clyde
Director: Arthur Penn
Cast: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Michael J. Pollard, Estelle Parsons
Released: August 13, 1967

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to In the Heat of the Night)
Best Director - Arthur Penn (lost to Mike Nichols for The Graduate)
Best Actor - Warren Beatty (lost to Rod Steiger for In the Heat of the Night)
Best Actress - Faye Dunaway (lost to Katharine Hepburn for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?)
Best Supporting Actor - Gene Hackman (lost to George Kennedy for Cool Hand Luke)
Best Supporting Actor - Michael J. Pollard (see above)
Best Supporting Actress - Estelle Parsons (won)
Best Original Screenplay - David Newman and Robert Benton (lost to William Rose for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?)
Best Cinematography (won)
Best Costume Design (lost to Camelot)

From one doomed couple to another - although I'm willing to bet that people are more familiar with Bonnie and Clyde than they are with War of the Roses.

Bonnie and Clyde is one of those movies saturated in pop cultures - it's been referenced in songs, movies, and TV shows and yet this was the first time I've seen it. Of course I knew what the story was about and how it ended so I wasn't exactly shocked with the ending!

Warren Beatty plays Clyde Barrow and Faye Dunaway plays his partner in crime, Bonnie Parker. The film opens up with Clyde trying to steal Bonnie's mother's car and Bonnie spots him from her bedroom window and comes down to stop him. He denies trying to steal her mother's car and that is how they are introduced.

He tells her that he has just been released from prison for robbery and she becomes intrigued by him. Bored by her life, she decides to join him and they start holding up small stores and gas stations. At one of the gas stations they hold up, they pick up an attendant named C.W. who proves his worth of being part of their gang when he steals the money from his own register. Also joining their group is Clyde's brother, Buck (Gene Hackman) and his wife, Blanche. All five of the main characters were nominated for Oscars but only Estelle Parsons who played Blanche won. Out of these five characters, Blanche was my least favorite. She was so loud and screechy! She was the one who shouldn't have been part of the gang because she didn't know what she was getting herself into, but she was supposed to be annoying because Bonnie sure couldn't stand her, so Parsons did a good job with that! God knows I wanted to smack her and tell her to shut up!

The Barrow Gang, as they call themselves, start robbing banks. C.W. acts as the getaway with Blanche while Bonnie, Clyde, and Buck go in with their guns and hold everyone at gunpoint and demand money. At one bank as they're getting away, the bank manager jumps onto their car and Clyde shoots him in the face. Now they're wanted for both robbery and murder and they all seem proud of the fact that they're famous in Texas and surrounding areas.

A person who didn't know the fate of Bonnie and Clyde and was watching this for the first time might think that they will get away - because for a minute it does look like that - but we all know better. This movie came out in 1967 and for the time it was extremely violent. I think it's pretty violent still watching it in this day and age! I don't think I've ever seen that many bullet holes in my life - I don't think I've seen anyone on film die in such a gruesome way! Well, I probably have, but Bonnie and Clyde (and their car!) were riddled with bullets. Those Texas law enforcements really wanted them dead - and they got their wish!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Family Feud

The War of the Roses
Director: Danny DeVito
Cast: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito
Released: December 8, 1989

Slight spoilers in this review at the end.

This was a movie I was always aware of, but had never seen until just recently. I was too young to see it in the theaters, but I knew it was about a couple going through a nasty divorce...just how nasty I didn't know until I watched it! I knew Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner play the feuding couple, but I didn't know that Danny DeVito directed it, but it shouldn't really surprise me since he seems to be drawn to (directing) dark comedies.

Douglas and Turner play Oliver and Barbara Rose, who meet and have an affair when they're college students. They get married and have two kids (one of who will grow up to be Sean Astin). Oliver becomes a big shot lawyer and by the time their kids are pre-teens, they move into a gorgeous house that Barbara's been eyeing.

I wasn't really sure when they started hating each other, it just sort of happens without any explanation when Barbara and Oliver are giving a dinner party for some of Oliver's clients and she's angry at him for making her look like a fool. They had been pretty snide to each other back and forth but it isn't until Barbara announces she wants a divorce when things turn really nasty. After Oliver has had a heart attack, Barbara confides to him that she was really scared when she found out...scared because she was happy at the though of him dying so she could be free of him! Ha! My favorite scene is when Oliver is angry at Barbara for not visiting him in the hospital and tells her he had written a note for her and gives it to her and she reads aloud this really heartfelt note and he tells her he didn't sign it and she says, "Oh, I'm sure someone would have told me who it was from!" LMAO! The look on his face is so priceless, hahaha!

Neither of them want to give up the house when they divorce and Oliver finds a loophole in his law books (with the help of Danny DeVito who's also in the movie as Oliver's law buddy) that says that a separated couple can live under the same roof. Even though they divide the house into "his half" and "her half" and have neutral zones (like the kitchen), they still cross paths and end up doing something to infuriate the other. Oliver accidently runs over Barbara's cat, but he purposely ruins her business meaning where she's prepared a bunch of new stuff for her catering company by spitting in the soup and peeing on the fish. She reacts by running over his fancy little car with her huge car. He retaliates by burning her expensive stoves and she in turns starts breaking his expensive porcelain figurines. By the end of the movie, they get into a huge fight and find themselves on this huge chandelier that hangs over the foyer. (I missed how they actually got onto the chandelier since my POS DVD skipped during this part!) Oliver wants to swing them back over to the balcony, but Barbara tells him that the screws are loose because she was planning on dropping it on him. They call for help and DeVito and their housekeeper tell them they're going to get a ladder, but before they return, the chandelier drops and our two lead characters die. The end.

This is a pretty strange movie, but there are funny parts. Both main characters are so awful that you're never really rooting for either of them. The tag line of this movie makes me laugh: "Once in a lifetime comes a motion picture that makes you feel like falling in love all over again. This is not that movie." True that!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Weekly Movie #12

21 Jump Street
Directors: Phil Lord and Chris Miller
Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Brie Larson
Released: March 16, 2012
Viewed in theaters: March 20, 2012

Only 40 more movies to go! Oh, boy... Luckily this movie was MUCH better than the one I saw last week (Safe House). I wasn't bored once and didn't have to resort to counting the chairs in the front row and the ceiling tiles like I did when I saw last week's movie. (No, really, I did...)

I wasn't very familiar with the TV show this film is based on. All I knew is that it's from the '80s and Johnny Depp was in it. I had no idea what the premise was, though.

Hill and Tatum play rookie cops  Schmidt and Jenko who went to high school together seven years prior, but never really hung out together because they were total opposites in school. Schmidt was the dork obsessed with Eminem ("Not so Slim Shady") who was in all the AP classes and couldn't get a date to prom and Jenko was the cool, athletic guy who didn't apply himself. While training to become cops, they become friends so Schmidt can help Jenko with the academic portions and Jenko can help Schmidt with the athletic portions.

Because of their youthful appearances (Hill is 28 and Tatum is 31 and while Hill looks like he could possibly pass for a high school student, Tatum is a little more hard to believe, and the movie does make fun of that throughout), they are assigned by Ice Cube's hilarious screaming captain to go undercover as high school students to try to find out where this new drug called H.F.S. (you'll laugh when you find out what it stands for) is being supplied from.

In a weird role reversal (blame it on Glee! Hee!) Schmidt becomes the cool one while Jenko is stuck hanging with the nerds. They accidently switch identities so Schmidt is in Jenko's easy classes while Jenko is taking all these AP classes. They make friends with the kid who is dealing the drugs and try to get in deeper with him to become part of the drug ring.

I love the scene where Schmidt calls Brie Larson's character, Molly, and she's like, "Everyone usually texts me." Schmidt went to high school in 2005 and weren't people texting back then? I'm pretty sure they were...oh, well it still made me laugh. I also like when Eric (the drug dealer) starts to get suspicious of Schmidt and Jenko questioning their taste in music and how Jenko looks like he went through puberty when he was really young.

This movie is very, very funny and trust me, you want to see this before anyone can spoil anything for you because there's a great scene where you do not want to be spoiled...

About a year ago I wrote reviews for ten teen movies that came out when I was a teenager and for each one I had a checklist with the required scenes for a teen movie. I shall do the same one for this one. (And I reviewed Never Been Kissed which is also about someone going undercover as a high school student.)

Is there a party scene? Affirmative
Is there a prom scene? Affirmative 
Is there a football scene? Negative 
Is there a make over scene? Affirmative - obviously Schmidt and Jenko have to dress like high school students. LOL I love the scene where Jenko tells Schmidt to "one strap it", and when they get to school everyone  has both straps over their shoulders. I was a two strapper because my backpack got so heavy with all my books 
Is there a scene where all the different high school cliques are being shown?Affirmative - they make a joke of them spotting the jocks and the nerds, then start to see other cliques and they have NO clue what group they belong to! 
Was this movie spoofed in Not Another Teen Movie? Well, obviously not since that movie came out in 2001 and this one was released, like, a week ago.

Any movie that plays "The Graduation Song" - Ha, love that song is still getting love after 12 years!- is all right with me. The most unbelieveable thing about that this movie is that high school students would know who Fred Savage and The Wonder Years is. You'll have to watch the movie to find out what I'm talking about! 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Weekly Movie #10

A Separation
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayet, Sarina Farhadi
Released: December 30, 2011
Viewed in theaters: March 2, 2012

Oscar nominations:
Best Foreign Film (won)
Best Original Screenplay - Asghar Farhadi (lost to Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris)

While looking for my next weekly movie to watch, I was glad that I saw one of my nearby theaters was playing the winner of the foreign film Oscar. There were still a couple options I would consider, though most likely they would be rentals for me. I hope some better movies will be coming out in the near future!

I haven't seen many foreign-language movies, but I've probably seen more than your average movie viewer. Of course I've seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Life is Beautiful, but I have seen others. I should post my ten favorite foreign-language movies sometime. I know some people are adversed to reading words on screen, but I don't mind - I'm a pretty fast reader!

A Separation is an Iranian film and the movie opens up with married couple Nader and Simin sitting in front of a judge with Simin asking him for permission to divorce her husband because she wants to move to another country so their eleven year old daughter, Termeh, can have a better life. She needs a divorce because her husband refuses to go with her because he has to take care of his father who has Alzheimer's. The judge does not grant her the divorce because her husband is a good man and has never done anything to harm her and he tells her to go on and live her life.

Simin goes to live with her mother for awhile because she is still determined to get a divorce and leave the country. While she is away, a young pregnant woman named Razieh comes to take care of Nader's father while he is at work and Termeh is at school. Simin found her through a friend and needing the money, Razieh soon finds out that the job wasn't exactly what she had in mind. She thought she would just have to watch the old man, but when he soils himself she begins to panic because she was told he always said when he had to use the restroom and she was worried it might be against her religion if she changed him. When Nader returns home, she tells him that she doesn't think she can do the job and tells him that she'll tell her husband and can Nader interview him tomorrow? Nader agrees to this and interviews Razieh's husband (who didn't know that Razieh had been working for him). Due to conflict, he isn't able to show up to work the next day, so Razieh takes his place and tells Nader that her husband will be able to work in a couple of days.

Things go to hell when Nader and his daughter come early one afternoon to find the door locked and nobody is answering the door. When they enter their apartment, they find Nader's father has fallen out of bed and has his hand tied to the bedpost with a scarf. When Razieh and her young daughter who she always brought with her return back, Nader, for good reason, is furious at her. She explains that she had to go out and do something and since his father usually slept at this time, she thought it would be okay and had tied him to the bed so he wouldn't get up and hurt himself. Nader accuses her of stealing money because he found money missing from a drawer but she claims she didn't. He doesn't believe her and forces her out the door. She comes back again and this time he pushes her out. She ends up falling and has a miscarriage and Nader is charged with manslaughter, but he says he had no idea that she was pregnant or otherwise he would have never been rough with her, although he says he never pushed her.

Basically the rest of the movie deals with this feud between the two couples. It's very intense and keeps you interested in how this is going to play out. I thought the young girl who played Razieh's daughter was really cute, but I thought it was really unprofessional of her to bring her daughter to her work! Maybe they couldn't afford a daycare, but even though the little girl didn't mean any harm, she would mess with the old man's oxygen tank and when her mother asked her to take out the trash she got trash and food all over the steps. Of course this does have a big part in the movie.... which I highly recommend!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Weekly Movie #9

Big Miracle
Director: Ken Kwapis
Cast: Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, Kristen Bell, Ted Danson
Released: February 3, 2012
Viewed in theaters: February 29, 2012

I go from one movie that takes place in Alaska and deals with wildlife to another movie that takes place in Alaska and deals with wildlife. Only with this movie, they're trying to help the wildlife! Fun fact: this is the only movie since 2000 I've seen in the theater on Leap Day. Heck, it might be the only movie I've seen in the theater on Leap Day...I started my movie journal in 1999, so I can't tell you if I've seen any on that particular day before that.

This movie is based on a true story that happened in a small town in northern (it is literally at the top of the state!) Alaska called Point Barrow in October 1988 when a family of three grey whales (mommy, daddy, and baby) became trapped when the ice quickly starts enclosing around them. They have plenty of room to swim, but there's only one hole available for them to come up and breathe. The only way they can get free is if the ice is broken for them so they can swim back towards "real" ocean. I had never heard of this incident in my life even though I was in second grade when it happened. In the movie they show school children who only want to do their reports on the whales; but maybe it was an Alaskan school, I wasn't sure on that. There were a few things like that that confused me about the movie. Like I didn't know what the relationship between John Krasinski's character and the young boy first I thought he was his son or little brother...but I think they just knew each other? I don't know.

Drew Barrymore plays Rachel, a Green Peace activist who's an ex-girlfriend of Krasinski's reporter based in Anchorage who's the one who first reports on the whales. While her intentions of helping the whales are admirable, she's a total Dawn Schafer and if you have any idea who I'm talking about then, first of all, high-five, and second of all, you know how annoying she is! There's one scene where she has all her scuba diving gear on because she wants to check in on the whales and I swear she said she's never been trained to scuba dive, so that was stupid! Especially in really cold temperatures! Of course she finds a net on the baby whale's tail, so they can make her doing something really stupid justified, but whatever.

I cried about, oh, four times during this movie. Just one of the many reasons why I see movies by myself! It was a feel-good (and sad at times) movie, but I have a feeling in a few years I'm going to be mistaking this movie with Miracle, the movie that came out a few years ago about the U.S./Russian hockey game during the '80 Olympics.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Weekly Movie #8

The Grey
Director: Joe Carnahan
Cast: Liam Neeson, Dermont Mulroney
Released: January 27, 2012
Viewed in theaters: February 22, 2012

The Grey is my first 2012 release of my weekly movies. Now that I've seen all the Oscar nominated movies (the ones I wanted to see, anyway), my options are becoming a little more limited, but there are still a few movies out there that I am interested in seeing, this one included. For a movie that was released in January (a dumping ground for bad movies), it was surprisingly good.

Warning: there will be spoilers. I do recommend this movie, but I recommend it watching it without spoilers, so go see this movie before you read my review!

Liam Neeson pretty much plays a badass in most of his movies (Taken, anyone?), so why should this one be any different? He plays Ottway, who's part of an Alaskan oil drilling team whose job was to fend off any wildlife. He and the other crew are on a small plane when it crashes in the Alaskan wilderness. There are only eight survivors and one of them immediately dies from complications from the crash. Ottway takes the role as the leader of the group and tells everyone they need to start walking because nobody is going to be looking for them because they're too isolated where they are. There is snow for miles and miles and nothing but barren land. The movie's color scheme is literally its title. I thought it was smart when Ottway opens up luggage to find a hat to put on. I don't know why he wasn't wearing one in the first place, but good thinking on his part.

During the first night, while trying to start a fire, they come across a pack of wolves who are just a few feet away from them on the other side of the flames. The wolves, of course, are CGI and they look much better than those in the Twilight series. Ottway is very honest with the others (perhaps a little too honest), telling them that if they're in the wolves' territory, then the wolves will be hunting them and that they need to have someone up at night to keep an eye out for them.

Of the seven remaining survivors, the first one to go is attacked by a wolf when he takes a pee break during his watch. Those wolves are crafty! The others were sleeping and didn't even hear the attack. One of them proclaims that a wolf ate the guy and Ottway says, "He didn't eat him...he killed him!" He decides if they trek to the treeline which is miles ahead of them, then maybe they'll be out of the wolves territory and then the wolves won't feel threatened anymore. While they are trekking through the snow, the wolves appear out of the snow and attack the guy who's lagging behind. And then there were five...

Don't think all the men are killed by wolves. No, the next one to go dies from complications with being sick and having a nasty cough. You could say he was one of the lucky ones! The good news is the men managed to kill one of the wolves. The four remaining survivors come to a crevice they need to cross, so Ottway creates a makeshift rope for them to cross. Mulroney's character is the last to cross and one of his hands has been badly damaged by the wolves and he can't use it, so he ends up falling and crashing into the trees and falling some more before his body is dragged away by the wolves. Wolves: 5; Men: 1

Now the next guy to "die" is very interesting. We don't actually see him die, per se, he just sits down on a log by the river and decides to give up; that he would much rather have this gorgeous landscape to look at then to have to go back to his life.

And now we're down to our last two men: Ottway and another guy who gets caught in the current while a wolf attacked him. His foot gets stuck in a log at the bottom of the river and he drowns. Only Ottway is our last survivor and, remembering the poem "Into the Fray" to give him inspiration, he decides to take on the alpha wolf. With broken bottle glasses taped to one hand and an army knife in the other, he's prepared to pounce. Now I'm thinking the guy who had given up earlier is going to come back and help him kill the wolf, but no, just as Ottway and the wolf are about to fight till the death (and my money's on the wolf no matter how much a badass Neeson's characters always are), the screen fades to black and the movie is over. I get the feeling we won't be having a sequel to this movie! At first I was annoyed that I didn't get to see the outcome, but I kind of like the ambiguity of it, the viewer kind of gets to decide if Ottway lived or not.

The plane crash and the situation reminded me of Alive and there's a scene in the movie where the survivors are around a campfire (can't remember exactly how many people were left at this point!) and one of them comments how they feel like they're in "that movie with that guy from Training Day in it." At first I was like, I don't remember Denzel Washington being in that movie, but obviously they meant Ethan Hawke...which I figured out a second later!