Posts Tagged ‘Jennifer Lawrence

19
Nov
15

Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

1119_01-MockingjayDOM

Breaking up the final book in a series into two movies instead of one seems all the rage these days. It started with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows being broken up into two 2+ hour films and then continued with the Twilight series becoming two sub 2 hour Breaking Dawn films. From what I’ve been told by book readers; for Harry Potter it was okay for the final book to be broken up over two films due to its content–not so much for Breaking Dawn. Is breaking up a book into two films more of an artistic decision to tell better tell the story that’s in the book? Or is it just another way for studios to grab money

These two questions aside, I’m always for more movie if it’s going to end up telling a better story. Which brings us to one of the top blockbusters of 2015; the final movie in The Hunger Games series: Mockingjay Part 2. Unlike Star Wars’s episodes or films in a trilogy or series, movies broken up into parts have the distinct disadvantage of being one really long movie with a really long intermission. They’re not two separate self-contained movies. They’re both parts of one movie. Which is why judging one-half without the context of the other half is difficult to do.

When we last saw Katniss, she had just been nearly strangled by her former District 12 Tribute turned Capitol propaganda speaker Peeta at the end of Mockingjay Part 1. Part 2 dives right in where we left off and hits the ground running with both Katniss and Peeta continuing to be used as tools of the war machine. Katniss, still the reluctant leader, is anxious to be fighting out on the front lines with the people that she is supposed to be rallying rather than just posing for more political propaganda pieces.

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Mockingjay Part 2 continues the theme of war and propaganda that was started in Part 1 with the machinations of District 13 President Alma Coin and gamesmaker turned rebel war consultant Plutarch Heavensbee; but also puts a different spin on it in Part 2 with the inclusion of questions about war and who the enemy really is. Katniss questions whether or not Capitol loyalists from the Districts are the enemy of the rebels when they are in fact District citizens. She also questions whether it’s right to kill people who may in fact not be their enemy. And in a move that nearly kills her, she questions the rebel cause when she defends their enemy when it appears as if they are surrendering.

While I’m glad to see that some of the bigger themes from the book made it into the film, things don’t really pick up until we get to the action in the Capitol; where defying direct orders from President Coin, Katniss tries to go on a rogue mission to kill President Snow. If you’ve seen the trailers this is the part in the film where a majority of the city is laid with Hunger Games like traps for the rebels to wade through. As expected, the traps that are set are grand, over the top, and especially deadly.

As Katniss and her squad progress through the Capitol, their numbers are slowly diminished as they encounter trap after trap. Fellow comrades are mourned, more propaganda is spread, and the burden of being some big savior of the rebellion continues to build on Katniss’s shoulders even when they are mere steps from achieving their objective. Without giving the ending away, let’s just say people live and people die and that where Katniss eventually ends up is sort of befitting of what she’s been put through throughout the entire series.

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All the actors that you know and love from the first three films are back. Obviously JLaw is front and center as Katniss with Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark and Baby Thor Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthrone–the other two sides of the angsty love triangle. Lawrence is solid as always, though she doesn’t have as much heavy lifting (acting-wise) that she did in the first two films in the series. She does have a moment here or there where she is required to emote, but it’s nothing really overly dramatic. A bad day for her would still be better acting than what we see in a majority of other films. Hutcherson on the other hand had me convinced that he was damaged goods as the tortured and brainwashed Peeta. So much so that I never fully believed that he was actually getting better. I was just waiting for him to go all Manchurian Candidate on Katniss at some point when she or I was least expecting it. The two heavy Oscar hitters Julianne Moore as Coin and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch don’t have a lot of screen time and don’t really get a chance to spread their dramatic wings.

On the whole, Mockingjay Part 2 was not the conclusion to a great series that we needed or the one we deserved. From book readers I’ve talked to, Mockingjay was the weakest book in the entire trilogy and I think it definitely shows. We went from two really great films that focused on characters, the effects of war, and great action set pieces to a set of films that tried to tell a somewhat different story than what the first two films were.

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Here in the Mockingjays, it’s more about the politics and maneuvering that the action in the films (which in the first two films supported the story) seemed to not support it. It’s almost as if you’re traveling in one direction and then turn dramatically in another direction. Instead of signaling and slowly making a turn, the Mockingjays seemed to have dramatically changed the pace of the overarching story in the final two films. While I get where things were going (big themes and questions about war, propaganda, and fighting); it just seemed a little out of place in Mockingjay considering where we as an audience came from in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.

I’m not going to say ‘don’t see it’, cause it’s definitely one of the biggest films of the year and if you’ve seen the other three then you have to see how it all ends.  There is some spectacle in this film that is worth watching and the final third of the film does provide some dramatic moments for those that haven’t read the books. I will say just go into it wanting to be entertained. Like other cinematic bookends that have come before it (Return of the Jedi, The Dark Knight Rises, and even Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), Mockingjay Part 2 is more of something you have to just see–not something you should be really excited to see.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is now playing in theaters everywhere.

3 of 5 stars // rated PG-13 // 2h 16m

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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.

27
Feb
14

Oscar Watch 2014: Actress in a Supporting 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: Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle.

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: Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle.

Who Should Win: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

I know what you’re probably thinking . . . “Matt, you’re in love with JLaw, of course you’d give her the Academy Award!” If she were being nominated for her Catching Fire performance, or if there was someone who really, I mean REALLY, blew me away in the Supporting Actress category, then I’d say, yes, you’re proclamation would carry some weight. The fact of the matter is that Jennifer Lawrence is really damn good in American Hustle. She simply fades into the role of Rosalyn, Christan Bale’s unpredictable New York housewife. While she’s very good in the “science oven” scene where she nags at Bale’s character with that smug and chirpy voice; it’s probably the lunch scene with her new beau Pete where she laments her fear of change where she really hits it out of the park.

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On everyone else . . .

  • Sally Hawkins: For Hawkins, since I haven’t seen her performance, I can only go off of what I’ve heard and read, which is that though she is well respected by her peers, this is a case of where the nomination itself is the reward. Having been passed over for her lead performance in the 2008 film Happy-Go-Lucky, many feel this nomination is an overdue mulligan from The Academy.
  • June Squibb: Squibb is a funny and overbearing wife in Nebraska, almost too funny at times. In fact in one scene involving speaking about deceased relatives as she stands over their graves, she goes a little over the top by flashing a headstone and taunting the person in it. Could it have been a convention of the screen writing and not the actress? Could be, but even still, I can’t help but feel she has a bunch of Betty White-like moments in the film–creating laughs by having an old white lady saying raunchy things. It’s humor derived from a convention more than a performance; good enough to get you nominated, but not Oscar worthy.
  • Julia Roberts: Though the former Oscar winner has a juicy role as Meryl Streep’s daughter in August: Osage County, that’s about all Roberts has going for her in this race. Before the season August was seen a potentially powerful Oscar contender. After opening to mixed/lukewarm reviews from critics, only a pair of actress nominations remain for the film. Roberts is probably bringing up the rear on this one so it’s good that she’s got a statue to comfort her already.
  • Lupita Nyong’o: Supporting actress is really a two horse race between Jennifer Lawrence and Lupita Nyong’o. I’ve talked about JLaw’s performance already and Nyong’o’s is as good if not better. You would be hard pressed to not to feel a deep sense of pain for the suffering her character goes through in 12 Years a Slave. As the fast picking cotton slave, Nyong’o’s Patsey is a shining star and favorite to master Edwin Epps, which puts her in many difficult situations–including one that is literally hard to watch. Nyong’o’s got a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award in her back pocket so her performance in the film is being recognized by her peers.

Who Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

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Conventional wisdom might tell you that the chances The Academy would award someone so young acting Oscars in back to back years is slim to none. When you take into account that the last person to do so was Tom Hanks (Philadelphia in ‘93 & Forrest Gump in ‘94) and that no one has ever done it across acting categories, it’s a pretty bold prediction. Hell, at first blush I knew this would be a major hurdle for her awards chances. But here’s where I think it’s very plausible . . .

As I mentioned previously, the is race between Nyong’o and Lawrence. They both have really great performances and on any given day you probably could pick one over the other. Calling that a wash and throwing that out, we now have to look at everything else.

The big award that Nyong’o has going for her is that she won the SAG award for her category–which could portend that The Academy acting branch is behind her. However, Lawrence has two awards to Nyong’o’s to lone one: a Golden Globe and a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts). I don’t believe in the Globes, but in the awards race they do account for something. The bigger award for Lawrence here is her BAFTA win. This could be a signal that the British block of Academy voters (a subset of the acting branch) could throw their weight behind her.

Moving on to broader speaking terms, American Hustle is a film that has more mass appeal than 12 Years a Slave. I sincerely hope the rumors of Academy members not watching 12 Years due to it being a ‘difficult watch’ are quite frankly that–rumors; but if they’re not then more voters will have seen Lawrence’s role than Nyong’o’s. More viewers should equate to more votes.

Finally, while it’s not generally a category that’s prone to race discrimination (Octavia Spencer, Mo’Nique, Jennifer Hudson, and Whoopi Goldberg have all won the award; Spencer, Mo’Nique, and Hudson within the last ten years), you never know when it could rear it’s ugly head. Remember now, we’re talking about group of people who are predominantly older and white. In a tight race between an African-American actress and a caucasian actress can we say with a 100% certainty that race won’t be a factor? I hope to God it won’t, but when you’re analyzing the system you have to take things like this into account.

With great performances for Nyong’o and Lawrence, Lawrence’s two awards wins to Nyong’o’s one, mass appeal of American Hustle vs 12 Years, and the ugly head of racism rearing its ugly head; that is why I think a second Oscar, and back to back, win for Jennifer Lawrence is very possible.

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

26
Dec
12

Review: Silver Linings Playbook

Knock knock. Who's there? A potential Academy Award contending movie.

Knock knock. Who’s there? A potential Academy Award contending movie.

Ah the holidays . . . a time when families comes together, talk, and catch up with relatives. And while Silver Linings Playbook isn’t a holiday per se, it’s definitely a film representative of our culture today (at least part of it anyway). It’s got everything you could possibly want from a holiday film: drama, family issues, and love. I mean, what more could you ask for?

In many ways Silver Linings Playbook is sort of a current take on the dysfunctional family movie. Think along the lines of something with the vibe of American Beauty, but updated for 2012. You have Pat who’s just been released from a mental institution, trying to deal with bipolar disorder stemming from a breakdown he suffers when he catches his wife having an affair. Then you also have Tiffany who’s dealing with depression and the death of her husband. Both are supported by their families, but both struggle to deal with how to handle the little things in their everyday lives; some things that us “normal people” would consider second nature. In our world where there’s a medication to solve any of our problems and an abundance of therapies to work through our psychological issues; the story of two slightly broken people developing a relationship based on their common experience with mental instability doesn’t seem that out of place.

Probably the biggest thing the film has going for it is the cast. Everyone in the film is pretty solid and the three top names in the film are all giving Academy Award level performances. Ok, maybe Academy Award level is a bit hyperbolic, but trust me when I say that Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro are all turning in the performance of their career/the last 10 years.

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Cooper is probably giving his best performance to date in a role that draws from other characters in his filmography. he utilizes some of his doucheyness from Wedding Crashers, mixed with some of his cool guy persona from The Hangover movies, and adding a bit of torturedness that gives his character Pat believable anger management issues and baggage, but at the same time makes him someone you want to see work through his issues. While Cooper dances the line between angry and emotional pretty well, he’s getting a lot of help from those around him; help that makes his performance that much more believable and buyable.

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Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence and becomes Pat’s new love interest, has a few issues of her own. Her hang ups stem from depression from the death of her husband which make her lash out by being with guys who don’t treat her well, thereby reinforcing a downward spiral. In Pat’s first few encounters with Tiffany, Lawrence plays the psycho girlfriend card pretty well and we don’t know if she truly is damaged or just plain crazy. However as the relationship between Tiffany and Pat develops, you begin to see her feelings come through and her outbursts slowly change from “crazy girl” territory to that of someone being upset with a person they genuinely have feelings for.

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Rounding out the acting trifecta is Robert De Niro. Now don’t get me wrong, we know he can give a great performance; as of late though it seems like he’s been chewing on scenery and just taking paydays (we’re looking at you New Year’s Eve). But in Silver Linings Playbook, director David O. Russell manages to get a great performance from the two time Oscar winner. De Niro plays Pat Sr, father to Cooper’s character in the film, and a devout Philadelphia Eagles fan. When it comes time for game day, Pat Sr’s neurotic quirks regarding fandom and bonding with his son soon goes beyond mere team support and sheds light on not just Pat Jr’s problems, but the entire family’s as well. De Niro plays the loving father/OCD super fan really well and is actually emoting in some of the better scenes.

Going in I wasn’t too sure how I was going to feel about Pat’s budding relationship with Tiffany (something that the entire film hinges on); one because I’ve never really gotten behind or really rooted for any of the characters Bradley Cooper has played in the past; and two because of the age difference between Cooper and Lawrence (15 years, though in the film he’s playing younger and she’s playing older). However, over the course of the film I was really sold on Pat’s struggle with his bipolar disorder. From the challenges Pat faced and the way he dealt with them, that’s what sold me on their relationship in the end–it was a challenge that he kept working on, that wasn’t easy and tested him along the way, and one that you could get a good sense of from the emotion he was portraying.

Overall, everything about Silver Linings Playbook feels just a little bit awkward and a little bit off, not in a bad way, but in a way that mirrors its main characters. You won’t be blown away by action or special effects, because there are none to be found. What you will find is a great modern day family film, well acted, and with a great mix of comedy and drama that will entertain. And really, isn’t that all we could ever ask from any holiday film?

Silver Linings Playbook is currently playing at Consolidated Kahala 8 and Regal Dole Cannery.

Rating 4/5 stars // R // 2hr 2min




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