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20
Nov
14

Hunger Games Mockingjay Pt 1 REVIEW: These Foolish Games

"You saw me on Letterman. I'll walk out. Don't make me."

“You saw me on Letterman. I’ll walk out. Don’t make me.”

Okay fine, I’m not the hugest fan of the series but seriously, while watching The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, I was bored. Like, bored out of my skull. And I was in a preview screening so security guards were watching and I couldn’t pull out my phone lest they think I was trying to pirate the film.

Already these movies (and books) weren’t exactly cheerful affairs but with the lack of a Battle Royale in this installment, things are really, really dour. After seeing her do “Live and Let Die” in American Hustle, slinking around as Mystique and calling off her own interview with David Letterman, poor Jennifer Lawrence seems to have outgrown her role as Katniss Everdeen. She’s definitely no Kristen Stewart—J-Law looks like she’s absolutely busting at the seems to do something, anything. Alas, most of her time is spent looking morose and dejected, something K-Stew had no trouble doing.

Granted, the adapted screenplay doesn’t give her much opportunity since it basically cut the final source material in half. Even more so than The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 though, Mockingjay suffers from being a project comprised of only a first and second act. And unlike Peter Jackson, nothing entertaining is made up just to fill in space.

This is Sutherland's only scene in the movie.

This is Sutherland’s only scene in the movie.

Katniss wakes up on a rebel airship and spends the rest of the time trying to decide whether she wants to become a propaganda instrument against the evil Capitol and it’s equally evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland). She also worries a lot about her buddy Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who got left behind in the previous film and is now in the hands of Snow, and losing weight very quickly. Hopefully his skinniness was CGI cause poor Hutcherson looks positively anorexic.

A few performers do what they can with what little they have. Elizabeth Banks still manages to be a diva as Effie, the fashionable emcee of The Hunger Games, even though she is now a political refugee in a jump suit. Donald Sutherland appears to be having a good time overacting with his Satanic line readings, but he’s hardly in the movie so he barely registers.

They wish their agents got them more money.

They wish their agents got them more money.

But esteemed actors like Julianne Moore, as the powerful leader of the resistance, is just going through the firm-jawed motions. The saddest though, is Philip Seymour Hoffman. As a member of the leadership committee, he just meekly agrees or disagrees with Moore. Tragic how this is the last role he will ever play.

But then it all must come down to tragedy with this bleak, dystopian series. Even the cinematography has a gray grain so thick that it almost blurs the scenery. Fans, of course, will not care. And considering that the fan base are pre-programmed admirers of the novels, they should be satisfied with this additional entry of loose-ended angst. Other audience members dragged into the theaters against their will might want to make sure their phones are fully charged prior. There’s a new version of Candy Crush to help pass the time.

The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 1 is now playing in theaters everywhere.

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14
Aug
14

Lucy REVIEW: There’s Something About Lucy

0814_01-LucyDOM

What is she really doing there? It’s like she’s trying to play an electric harp.

Just to make this clear, Lucy is an incredibly stupid movie that makes absolutely zero sense whatsoever.

But Lucy is also maddeningly, a gloriously achievement in film-making so out of control that somehow it transcends being a “bad film” and is in actuality a disaster so precisely calibrated to writer and director Luc (The Professional, The Fifth Element) Besson’s insane vision that one can’t take one’s eyes off the screen.

I mean, for example, take Transformers 4. I know that ain’t the full title but I don’t care to go back and figure it out nor remember it. There came a point where I wanted to walk out of the theater. But the A/C was working like a Godsend so I sat there for three hours being pummeled by uninspired, rote CGI. If I had rented the DVD at home, I surely would’ve turned it off at the 2 hour mark.

But not a moment like that happened with Lucy… As the plot continued to spiral into completely illogical ludicrousness, I still couldn’t figure out where the movie was going. Part of the “credit” goes to Besson’s screenplay, but most of the “credit” should go to Scarlett Johansson—who also single-handedly proves that women can lead a comic-book hero film. Because not only is Lucy essentially a superhero origin story, it also made a shitload of money.

0814_02-LucyWithDudes

You guys didn’t see Captain America: Winter Soldier, have you?

Lucy is the tale of a young girl in Taiwan who is turned into a drug mule by Korean gangsters. They surgically insert a big bag of some blue drug in her body (reportedly a synthesized version of the stuff that makes fetuses grow so quickly) to smuggle into the US. The bag breaks and she slowly gains more and more access to the remaining 90% of the human brain, which the movies tells us, mankind isn’t evolved enough to use yet. (The science behind the whole 10% thing is also kinda dubious to begin with but let’s just go with it for now.)

Johansson is truly a marvelous actress. Unlike her role as the Black Widow in the Marvel movies, she actually doesn’t do very much gun-shooting or ass-kicking here. Most of the time she’s sitting in a room, a car, or airplane, just staring into space, calculating whatever it is her brain feels the need to calculate. And she still somehow remains a character that is compelling and sympathetic. She’d be a wonderful Terminator.

0814_03-LucyWithKanji

Those characters actually mean: “Do not urinate and defecate on floor.”

As stated before, Besson incredulously shoots for the Kubrick/Malick moon as well. His mind must have become so gloriously warped in self-indulgence that he typed any old thing that popped into his head while working on the script. Maybe he was on drugs and experienced a helluva trip because somehow we explore deep space, early man making fire, the dinosaurs, scenes of different species of animals procreating, the rest of human evolution and history… Perhaps concepts this zany would have worked better in outer space like The Fifth Element, which contains similar themes, albeit, subtler.

And did I mention the film only takes about 90 minutes? Hell, I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel because Lucy is the summer’s most charismatic female character and I’m kinda curious what she’s up to right now. (SPOILER: She kinda turned herself into a giant black stalactite computer with a handy USB drive. She’s also…everywhere, capable of sending you text messages if you think about her.)

So here lies the rub. Yes, Lucy isn’t very good. Practically every friend I know who’s seen the movie has hated, hated, hated it. I don’t blame them. But it’s also shockingly and audaciously watchable, something that can’t be said for Transformers 4. In another time, Lucy would have been a classic, prime candidate for MST3K.

Lucy is currently playing in theaters everywhere.

21
Jul
14

Wish I Was Here REVIEW: Emo Epiphanies

For $100, you can sit with Zach Braff.

For $100, you can sit with Zach Braff.

With Wish I Was Here, Zach Braff continues to document the life journey of the male emo millennial. If 2004’s Garden State showed us the said millennial in his 20s, Wish documents him a decade later in his 30s, domestically settled down with kids as well as non-artistic responsibilities.

Braff plays Aiden, an unemployed actor, married to the hardworking Kate Hudson, with two precocious children in a private Jewish school, a slacker brother and a dying father (Mandy Patinkin). And he, of course, is searching for answers. Or epiphanies. With arms wide open. Cue the incessant emo rock on the soundtrack that features The Shins, Badly Drawn Boy, Paul Simon and other usual suspects.

Although not as sweepingly effective as Garden State, Wish still somehow works while being set in a sit-com purgatory where everyone has the perfect one-liner under a pall of sanitized mumblecore navel-gazing. There’s also a welcome, healthy dose of Jewish religion to ground the work with some sort of sense of time and existence other than that of the flustered, aging hipster. The ultimate appeal of this movie probably comes from the abject, good-natured sincerity pouring off the script by Braff and his brother Adam. Even with all the magical unrealism going on, the depiction of the family dynamics and relationships feel genuine.

That jar holds all the Kickstarter money.

That jar holds all the Kickstarter money.

Hudson is charming and gorgeous as ever. Perhaps a little too charming and gorgeous for a mother working full-time doing data entry for the Department of Water. Patinkin verges on the edge of over-acting, but then he always does. Jim Parsons has a small part as an acting colleague of Braff’s and one wonders if he will ever be able to shake the aura of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory.

Controversial for its Kickstarter-funded budget, Braff’s very public battle for final cut may have resulted in a product a bit too precious and forced. But that doesn’t mean Wish I Was Here isn’t worthy of existing, complete with its heart on the sleeve of its hipster t-shirt.

——

At the end of the July 17 screening at the Kahala theaters, Frolic Hawaii’s Brian Watanabe hosted a Q&A with co-screenwriter and 6-year Honolulu resident Adam Braff (Zach’s bro, pictured left).

0721_03-AdamBraff

Some of the highlights from that Q&A:

  • When questioned on how to get ahead in screenwriting: Find “a partner who is an international celebrity” and “sharpen your pencils.”
  • Braff would like to work on a project reuniting his brother with his Scrubs co-star Donald Faison.
  • Adam Braff’s favorite moment in the film—Kate Hudson and Mandy Patinkin in the hospital. “I don’t think you see someone reminding someone on their deathbed that they have unfinished business.”
  • “There’s quite a bit of things that will be on the DVD.”
  • Rowdy the stuffed dog from Scrubs is indeed somewhere in the film.
  • “I don’t know how this movie got so Jewish.”
  • They actually only had Mandy Patinkin for four days during the production.

Coolest part of the Q&A though? Once the film finished, they killed the credits in the middle and just started into it. I thought we’d have to wade through the whole thing before it started, but we didn’t have to wait.

(Sorry to all you end credit aficionados. Unless there’s a comic book movie easter egg just sitting at the conclusion of it all, I’m outta there. Things to do, drinks to drink. You know how it is. Wish I was here.)

Wish I Was Here is now playing exclusively at Consolidated Theatres Ward 16.

 

 

26
Jun
14

Going Past Days of Future Past

0626_01-DOFPdom

We should get a free pass cause we all got together.

Okay, don’t get me wrong. I liked X-Men: Days of Future Past (DOFP). And I count myself as one of the hugest “mutant-and-proud” supporters of the franchise on the planet. Hell, I even liked X-Men Origins: Wolverine, amnesia bullets, ratchet Deadpool and all the rest of that nonsense. But unlike the rest of the planet, I don’t think DOFP was the best film in the franchise. (For the record, I reserve that slot for the more nuanced, sweeping, and socially relevant X2.)

SPOILER ALERT: Mind your words. We’re heading into spoiler territory. You’ve now been duly warned.

SPOILER ALERT: Mind your words. We’re heading right into spoiler territory. You’ve now been duly warned.

My biggest problem with DOFP: Nobody bothers to explain how they put Professor X back together after he literally fell to pieces confronting Jean Grey in X-Men: The Last Stand. Yes, the end credits for the latter film suggested he occupied another body but still, it was a different physical person. In the end credits for The Wolverine, the now whole Professor X tells Logan, “As I told you once before, you’re not the only one with gifts.” And that’s that. DOFP just plops a non-disintegrated Charles Xavier into our laps and goes on with the show. C’mon, there needs to be some explanation here, cause you know: THE GUY GOT OBLITERATED! That kinda exposition really matters.

0626_02-ProfXtoProfX

“When exactly do I lose my hair?”

(If you dig around online, reportedly in the commentary for the X-Men: The Last Stand DVD, it is explained that Xavier entered the consciousness of Moira MacTaggart’s patient, who just happens to be his twin brother. In the womb, the Professor’s overwhelming mind abilities just totally fucked up his bro. Fair enough, but since when did we have to research the internet for a film’s plotlines?)

Another franchise quibble: At the end of The Wolverine, where Logan makes friends and enemies in Japan, didn’t he lose his adamantium in the final fight? And keeping that plot point in mind, how does he have adamantium bones in the future in DOFP? Again, no explanation.

0626_03-WolverineAttacks

Rock, scissors, paper. Okay, go!

And mutant-logistically, while the scene was arguably the best sequence in the movie, doesn’t it seem Quicksilver is a bit too powerful? He may not have had an appealing sense of dress, but he really could have come in handy during the film’s many, many almost-assassination scenes. He just needed to run by and take the gun away from the person in question. In fact, he probably could’ve speeded up the film’s main flaw: Characters spent precious and long moments convincing each other that they had to do things to make the future a better place, or they shouldn’t do things that would ultimately bring on the end of the human race.

But then, I guess that makes me a dick cause the movie would be over in 60 minutes.

0626_04-QuicksilverBreakout

Even in the past, there apparently was an Armani AX.

And on a purely personal and non-objective note, the end credits were initially confusing. They already announced the next movie in the series will be X-Men: Apocalypse, and it will feature the titular fearsome, totally buff-ass villain. What we saw was a child building the pyramids in Egypt in front of a worshipping crowd with four horsemen in the background.

Obviously this is Apocalypse Baby. I guess it’s just that I never imagined Apocalypse as a toddler. I mean, even The Avengers showed us what appeared to be the real Thanos. Would it have killed anyone to show us a glimpse of the real Apocalypse? Especially because in this day and age, he’s gonna be CGI anyway.

But enough with #100daysofhate. We could discuss the series’ inconsistencies till…well… the apocalypse, but in conclusion, I’m coming from a sincere place here. I genuinely care about these poor mutated characters. I mean, I think this is the most I’ve written about a movie in almost a year since my jaw-dropping shock at the collateral damage of Man of Steel. (This summer, even Godzilla had a nimbler touch around a city’s infrastructure.)

Again, X-Men: Days of Future Past was an entertaining enough film. I just want the coming apocalypse to be a little less bumpy.

20
Jun
14

Jersey Boys REVIEW: I Don’t Love You, Baby

And the nominees are for Worst Old Age Make-Up...

And the nominees are for Worst Old Age Make-Up . . .

It’s an interesting move to release the adaptation of the Broadway hit Jersey Boys smack in the middle of the summer season, especially if the musical doesn’t star Adele Dazeem. On top of that, the film is about a doo-wop group whose core audience are probably baby boomers, not CGI-craving, catatonic young folks. And it’s directed by a man who talks to furniture. But improbably, it’s June and here we have Jersey Boys, directed by our favorite loony celebrity Republican, Clint Eastwood.

Of course it helps if you’re a fan of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and the story documents their street thug origins, rise to fame, and their eventual dramatic dissolution. All the hits are also there: “Rag Doll,” “Working My Way Back to You,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and many more.

"Big boys don't have marbles in their mouth."

“Big boys don’t have marbles in their mouth.”

I saw the version in Vegas and as far as I can tell—full disclosure—or as far as my mother can tell, this version was just as enjoyable and true to the background material. In fact, this review is really all about my mother. And your mother. She is gonna love this movie. All those doo-wop tunes were from her time, not yours. During a highpoint, much hub-bub is made about playing “the song.” “Just play the song!” And Valli begins crooning those familiar lyrics: “You’re just too good to be true / Can’t take my eyes off you…” Somehow when we finally hear that hit though, it feels anti-climactic.

But then maybe it’s because I’m a non-objective 80s cinephile who can’t forget Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys bringing down the theater in a…well… fabulous montage sequence of the same song. There’s also the fact that the musical then goes on with one more act with their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, complete with some truly atrocious old age make-up.

"See? That note right there? Eastwood wants us to talk to the sofa..."

“See? That note right there? Eastwood wants us to talk to the sofa…”

John Lloyd Young, who originated the Broadway role as Frankie Valli lacks a certain screen presence. Yes he has a nice voice and we see female, and even male members of the audience, in rapture with him, but once he’s not singing, he just looks kinda pouty. His performance probably went over better on the stage where he wasn’t at the mercy of Eastwood’s choice of unrelenting Les Miserables-style close-ups.

Only Christopher Walken manages to make an impression as a mobster supporter who, in the end, really doesn’t seem to do much to help them. But the actor manages to bring comic timing to his nefarious dealings.

It’s sad that the movie only truly comes to Broadway musical life during Walken’s scenes and during the end credits that has most of the cast dancing and singing down a street. The movie really could have used more of that energy. In the end, something is just wrong with the tone. At times it wants to be a hard edged tale of boys rising from the mean street of New Jersey and at other times, it wants to be the full fledged musical catalogue of the group’s hits with some slapstick mook comedy thrown in for kicks.

Or maybe I just didn’t get Jersey Boys because, as the movie keeps reminding us, I’m not from Jersey.

Jersey Boys is currently playing in theaters everywhere.

26
Feb
14

Oscar Watch 2014: Actress in a Leading Role

Oscar Watch looks to break down the different categories for the 2014 Academy Awards. We’ll do our best to give you the inside track for your Oscar pools. Above: Blanchett & Adams, our frontrunners.

Oscar Watch looks to break down the different categories for the 2014 Academy Awards. We’ll do our best to give you the inside track for your Oscar pools. Above: Blanchett & Adams, our frontrunners.

 

Who Should Win: (Tie) Amy Adams, American Hustle / Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

I really hate ties cause I feel they’re cop-outs, but in this particular case, I think it’s warranted.

Not only did Amy Adams manage to play a sluttier type of woman than she’s normally known for, she also spent half the film speaking in a convincing English accent. And let’s not also ignore the fact that for almost three hours, she avoided a nip slip.

But then again, I think Cate Blanchett deserves this award as well. Not only did Ms. Blanchett manage to play a lower class of human than she’s normally known for, she also managed to spend the entire film speaking in a convincing American accent. And let’s not ignore the face that for almost two hours, she went without a Xanax.

Unfortunately, due to the recent allegations against Woody Allen, as well as his extremely unsympathetic op-ed, voters may punish the filmmaker by denying Ms. Blanchett some glory. This is too bad since she turned in a punishing, fearless role as a totally selfish, materialistic, and prescription medication-addicted bitch while at the same time, getting a ton of laughs in what was actually a comedy.

Judi Dench in Philomena & Meryl Streep in August: Osage County

Judi Dench in Philomena & Meryl Streep in August: Osage County

On everyone else…

  • Meryl Streep: We’ve seen Meryl Streep do this a billion times and we’ve seen her do it better, particularly in The Bridges of Madison County. (Yeah whoa, remember that one?) And besides, every single person who wins an Oscar that night is going to thank her profusely anyway. Sorry God, Meryl’s gonna get all the props.
  • Judi Dench: Like Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, we get the feeling that Judi Dench is playing herself here. If anything, the Bond movies were probably a bigger stretch for her than this role in a rather cute but ultimately uninspired and vanilla adoption movie.

And while we’re at it, two actresses were criminally ignored in this category.

First there’s Brie Larson from Short Term 12, the most underrated film of the year. Her portrayal of a social worker with her own deep insecurities was one of the most moving and realistic characters to grace the screen in years.

Also very much worth noting is Adèle Exarchopoulos from the epic lesbian love story Blue is the Warmest Color. She seriously worked her ass off. Literally.

Not only was she completely fearless in the extremely graphic sex scenes required of her, she was also emotionally naked for most of the film. She was absolutely convincing as a young girl completely scared and elated with the slow discovery of her sexuality. It’s probably sacrilege to say it, but I bet even Ms. Streep could not have pulled that role off.

Who Will Win: Sandra Bullock, Gravity

0226b_03-Sandra

Because of the Woody controversy and Amy Adams getting upstaged by all the J-Law hoopla, I think Sandra Bullock is gonna squeak by. Yes, she did a good job, but I just feel she doesn’t deserve it because a lot of other actresses could have pulled that role off. Even Miley Cyrus would’ve been screaming and crying if she was in that outer space situation. Heck, even Justin Bieber would’ve been screaming and crying… Never mind. (Blake Griffin: You da man.)

 What are you thoughts on our best actress prediction? Give us your thoughts on the category in the comments.

14
Feb
14

Oscar Watch 2014: Actor in a Leading Role

Oscar Watch looks to break down the different categories for the 2014 Academy Awards. We'll do our best to give you the inside track for your Oscar pools. Above: Chest thumping McConaughey from The Wolf of Wall Street.

Oscar Watch looks to break down the different categories for the 2014 Academy Awards. We’ll do our best to give you the inside track for your Oscar pools. Above: Chest thumping McConaughey from The Wolf of Wall Street.


Who Should Win
: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

McChonaughey from Dallas Buyers Club, Ejiofor, Bale, and Dern.

McConaughey from Dallas Buyers Club, Ejiofor, Bale, and Dern.

AIDS victim fighting to obtain medication for himself and eventually the whole country. Yes it’s total Oscar bait, but Mr. McConaughey brings a genuine character along with his 47 pound weight loss. (Ironically this year Christian Bale gained weight.)

His Ron Woodroof his a homophobic, drug addicted, alcoholic hick and by film’s end, he isn’t necessarily a different person, but Mr. McConaughey shows us a subtle flicker of generosity trying to break through the surface.

There’s also a relaxed, charming scene in a fine dining restaurant where he compliments a waiter on bringing the right bottle of “grape juice.” It’s a small moment as the emaciated-looking character is having one of his better nights and it just shows how natural Woodroof has become to the actor.

Factor in Mud and The Wolf of Wall Street and boom—this dude had a pretty good year. And on top of all that, Mr. McConaughey has never won an Oscar.

On Everyone Else…

  • Chiwetel Ejiofor: As the free slave who finds himself back in captivity in 12 Years a Slave, Chiwetel Ejiofor is actually my second favorite performance of the year. It was a close one for me (between Mr. McConaughey), but I just have a feeling Mr. Ejiofor will get a few more chances to show off his talents. Still, that long shot of him hanging from a noose is one of the most haunting, frightening, and yet, beautiful scenes of the year.

  • Christian Bale: My third favorite performance this year. For any other actor, being an overweight 70s hustler under a bad hair weave would be a challenge, but this is Christian Bale we’re talking about. We’re almost to the point of taking his physical transformations for granted, but somehow, it just feels Mr. Bale barely broke a sweat hamming it up as this epic larger-than-life (literally) character in American Hustle. In some ways, maybe the hardest part Mr. Bale ever had to play was actually Bruce Wayne. As that orphaned hero, without the mask, he had nowhere to hide.

  • Bruce Dern: Umm… No. Just no. (But watch, the voters are gonna pull some Lifetime Achievement thing and I’ll just be screaming at the TV. Nebraska and Philomena would have been network TV movies of the week in the 80s.)

Let’s instead remember some other more worthy male performances from 2013.

Michael B. Jordan as the ambitious but doomed train passenger in Fruitvale Station. Robert Redford as a practically wordless boatsman in All is Lost. Oscar Isaac as the jerkish and melancholy folk musician in Inside Llewyn Davis. Jaden Smith as the young, knee-taking jungle warrior in After Earth.

Okay, just kidding about one of those, but still… You get my point. All were arguably more memorable performances than Bruce Dern. #sorrynotsorry

Who Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

0214_03-WinnerLeo

Unfortunately, Leonardo DiCaprio has never won an Oscar either.

The biggest problem with this performance is that you get the feeling you are watching Mr. DiCaprio just simply having a good time being Mr. DiCaprio. Throwing money around, dropping f-bombs, oof-ing models, and snorting copious amounts of coke? Frankly, that’s what we always thought of him before The Bieber came around to take all the illicit attention away. It just doesn’t feel that much of a stretch and there’s a bunch of young actors out there who could probably have pulled off the same performance.

If anything, Mr. DiCaprio should have gotten the nomination for The Great Gatsby, a movie that cannily took the notion of being Leo and turned it on his slicked back head.

But with his three previous nominations and his fifth collaboration with Martin Scorsese, Academy voters might feel it’s time to give in.

What are your thoughts on our predictions? Give us your thoughts on the Best Actor category in the comments.




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