Sunday, November 24, 2013

Catching Fire (IMAX)

WARNING: There might be some slight spoilers in this review. I tried my best not to, but my definition of a spoiler might be different than someone else's. I can tell you that there are some MAJOR spoilers for the first movie/book. Although if you haven't seen the first movie, why are reading this? lol. You've been warned.

I want to start off this review by saying to the director, Francis Lawrence- thank you, thank you, thank you for not using shaky cam! It was nice coming out of the theater not having a headache or feeling nauseous for the rest of the weekend. That was my biggest complaint about the first movie. I'm not saying Gary Ross didn't do a good job or anything. I respect him for having his own style of directing. I've just never been a big fan of shaky cam. Moving on.

Catching Fire is one of those rare sequels that's better than the first movie (and I love Hunger Games). It picks up I believe about six months after Hunger Games. Katniss (Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence) has returned after winning the 74th Hunger Games and is still trying to deal with what happened. Her and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) must now embark on a Victors Tour through the various districts of Panem. Along the way she can sense that, because of her actions in the Games, a rebellion is brewing. Also happening is a special version of The Hunger Games known as the Quater Quell. This 75th Hunger Games will set in motion events that will change Panem forever.

I still remember that people weren't too happy when it was announced that Jennifer Lawrence was going to play Katniss. I'd like to think she's proven them all wrong, especially in Catching Fire. The way she able to portray such raw emotions is incredible. You really buy her as this young girl struggling to survive such horrible situations.

Someone who really surprised me was Josh Hutcherson. His acting has gotten a lot better this time around. Not that he was terrible in Hunger Games, I just didn't really buy him as Peeta whereas in this one I did.

But the person who surprised me the most was Sam Claflin as Finnick. When they first cast him I just couldn't picture it. One, because I had read the books beforehand and had my own idea of what Finnick should look like. And two, the most recent movie I had seen him in was Snow White and the Huntsman. I liked the movie itself but thought he was terrible in it. So I went into this with low expectations. It was such a nice surprise to see what an outstanding job he did. Sam really captured the character well- someone strong and very charming, but was more than meets the eye.

Woody Harrelson is back as mentor Haymitch. How awesome is he? I just can't imagine anyone else playing the role.

I'm sure people are curious about Liam Hemsworth as Gale. While I think he was very good, some of the advertising for this movie has been very misleading. Just like in the first movie, his character isn't in it all that much (he definitely has a bit more screen time in Catching Fire for sure, but still). Don't worry though- Gale will be featured much more prominently in Mockingjay.

There are so many other amazing actors who gave great performances- Elizabeth Banks, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, and many more. I just don't have time to talk about them all individually. All I'll say is I can't really think of anyone who gave a bad performance.

I already mentioned before how happy I am with director Francis Lawrence (whose previous movies include Water for Elephants and I Am Legend). He really brought this book to life. I was especially blown away by the look of the arena. The budget for Catching Fire was about double than that of Hunger Games. He certainly put that money to good use. I'm looking forward to seeing what he does with Mockingjay.

I'm not sure who the costume designer was, but he/she deserves an award. I absolutely loved all the clothing, especially Katniss' dresses.

The composer for Catching Fire was James Newton Howard, who also did the score for Hunger Games (you hear hints of it in this one. I'll admit, I cried when I heard Rue's theme again. Music is very important in a movie. It has to fit just right with each scene and if it doesn't, it could very well ruin the movie. I've seen it happen. Luckily that's not the case here. The score for this movie was beautiful and really sets the tone for each scene.

There's only one reason I'm not giving this movie a perfect score. This is nothing negative about the movie itself, it's more of me nitpicking since I read the books. There was one or two scenes from the book that I really wanted to see but sadly didn't make the cut. I completely understand though. Any time you're turning a book into a movie things are going to change. Whether it be for time or the scene just doesn't work in a movie setting. Overall though, Catching Fire is a VERY faithful adaptation. Probably the most faithful I've seen in awhile.

If you liked The Hunger Games then you'll LOVE Catching Fire. If you're lucky enough to live near an IMAX theater, definitely splurge and see it in that format. The movie looks amazing on a huge screen, especially the scenes in the arena. You really feel like you're there.

I'm so looking forward to Mockingjay now. Why why why must we wait a whole year?

My Rating: 9.5/10

Sunday, November 17, 2013

12 Years a Slave

I’m calling it right now. Chiwetel Ejiofor is going to win the Best Actor Oscar this year. Hell, they might as well just give it to him now. 12 Years a Slave is one of the most powerful, brutal, haunting movies that I’ve ever seen. It’s definitely one of the best (if not THE) movies this year. Everyone walking out of the theater, myself included, was speechless and amazed at what we saw.

12 Years a Slave is based on the true story of a man named Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from New York with a wife and two children. He is tricked, drugged, and sold into slavery. It shows his struggle to survive and the people he encounters along the way.

The movie is directed by Steve McQueen, whose previous films include Shame and Hunger (both of which also included Michael Fassbender). Everything about his directing is flawless- the beautiful cinematography, the way the scenes were edited together, and the powerful performances he was able to get out of each actor. This was the first slavery movie I can remember where you actually got a feel for what life was like for these poor people. It was absolutely horrific and heart breaking. *SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT* There was a whipping scene in particular which looked and sounded so real that all of us in the theater literally jumped in our seats and gasped.*END OF SPOILER* Steve is a truly talented director and I look forward to seeing more of his movies in the future.

Every actor, I felt, was perfectly cast, especially Chiwetel Ejiofor. The way he was able to show such wide range of emotions was unbelievable. Watching him on screen had me in tears several times.

Another standout performance was Michael Fassbender as the cruel (and that’s putting it mildly) slave owner named Edwin Epps. Michael, from what I’ve seen in interviews and other appearances, seems like a nice guy but his performance in this makes you hate him so bad. That just shows you what a talented actor he is. He’s another one that could get an Oscar nomination. Infact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie got nominations in almost all the acting categories. Particularly for supporting actress. *SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT* There’s a subplot involving Epps and one of his slaves named Patsey, played by newcomer Lupita Nyong’o. How she was able to portray such raw emotion I’ll never know. Her scenes are so powerful but at the same time difficult to watch. This actress will definitely be one to watch in the future.*END OF SPOILER*

I seriously can’t think of a bad performance. The rest of the amazing cast includes- Benedict Cumberbatch, Dwight Henry, Paul Giamatti, Sara Paulson, and Brad Pitt. Brad was actually a producer on this movie as well. He (Brad) doesn’t have much screen time at all but his role is VERY important.

The music is beautiful as well. What can I say? I have a thing for movie scores. I probably have more of them on my iPod than anything else. Hans Zimmer, whom I’ve always been a fan of, provides the score that perfectly fits with each scene. I got goose bumps listening to it.

So do I recommend this movie? Absolutely.  I think it’s a must see. But I’m giving this recommendation with a warning- if you have a weak stomach or heart problems this movie is NOT for you. I’m being serious. I have a pretty strong stomach but even I felt nauseous and had to turn away from the screen several times. I look at this movie the way I look at Schindler’s List- a cinematic masterpiece that everyone needs to see, but it’s so depressing that you’ll probably only watch it once.

Rarely does a movie make me walk out afterward and keep thinking about it days later. 12 Years a Slave is one that I can honestly say has no flaws. I’m looking forward to seeing how this movie does during awards season.

My Rating: 10/10

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Thor: The Dark World (3D)

I'm not afraid to admit I'm a huge superhero fan. I've seen just about every superhero movie that's been released in the last several years. If that makes me a nerd than so be it. So you'll understand when I tell you that I'm still recovering from the massive nerdgasm I got while watching the awesomeness that is Thor: The Dark World. 

Without giving too much away, the basic plot of the movie is that thousands of years ago the Dark Elves wanted to take over the universe and send it into darkness with a special weapon known as the Aether. They were stopped by Asgard warriors, but the leader of the Dark Elves named Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) escaped. Now he's returned and it's up to Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who forms an uneasy alliance with Loki (Tom Hiddleston), to stop him. Added into the mix of course is Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Thor's love interest. 

There's a lot of things going on in this movie and at times it can be a bit confusing, but it's worth the effort. As much as I love the first movie, I think I like this one a little better. My biggest complaint about the first Thor was that they spent way too much time on Earth and not enough on Asgard. Luckily in The Dark World there are very few scenes on Earth and it takes place mostly on Asgard. I absolutely loved how the director explored this amazing world. It was cool to see what life would be like there. And the cinematography as well as the costumes were beautiful. 

Then there's Chris Hemsworth. What can I say? The guy is gorgeous and does a great job as Thor. His scenes with Loki were epic. By far my favorite part of the movie. Speaking of Loki, how awesome is Tom Hiddleston? I can't imagine anyone else playing the role. They just need to hurry up and give him his own movie already. If you haven't seen the videos of Loki talking to kids you've got to go search for them on YouTube. They're hysterical. 

The music, composed by Brian Tyler (whose previous soundtracks include Iron Man 3 and Fast Five) is beautifully done and fits perfectly with each scene.

There were only a couple of flaws that I noticed. Nothing major and certainly nothing that should stop you from seeing it. The special effects looked good for the most part, but there were a few moments were they looked cheap. The villain, while he looked cool, wasn't all that great compared to other movies like this. 

The biggest flaw was the 3D. I had hoped that they would've learned their lesson from the first movie. Sadly they didn't. The 3D was barely noticeable. Save your money and go see this in regular 2D. I'm a fan of 3D if it's done right. Seriously, if you're not going to actually film in 3D don't even bother. Enough with these cheap conversion jobs. I could spend all day talking about this, but I'll spare you and move on. 

Like the other Marvel films, be sure you stay through the credits. There's actually two scenes this time- one in the middle of the credits and the other at the end. All I'll say about them is one if them sets up another Marvel movie that's coming out in the not so distant future. 

Despite a couple of flaws, Thor: The Dark World is a really fun movie. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 

My Rating: 8/10

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

I've never really been a big Jackass fan. I watched the show once in awhile (and I think I might've seen the first movie at one point) and sure it was funny at times, but overall I thought it was stupid. But when I saw the trailer for this awhile back, I thought this could be really funny. 

Unlike the show and the other movies, which really just went from skit to skit, Bad Grandpa has an actual plot (even if it is pretty thin). Johnny Knoxville plays the Grandpa named Irving. He has to take his grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll) across the country to live with his father. Along the way they get into all sorts of trouble. The people around them are real people, not actors. Some of their reactions are priceless. It pretty much follows the same formula as Borat. 

This was probably one of the funniest movies I've seen in a long time. At times I was literally laughing so hard my stomach hurt. Most comedies I see these days I'm lucky if they make me chuckle. 

My favorite part of the movie was definitely the little boy who played Billy. He was so adorable and funny. He'll be one to watch in the coming years. He has the potential to be a great comedic actor. His timing was just perfect. I don't know how he was able to do some of those scenes and keep a straight face. 

Not to say that the movie was perfect. Some of the pranks were a little too much (for my personal taste anyway) but I expected that with this kind of movie. My biggest complaint though was that they showed a little too much in the trailer. Don't get me wrong, there's still plenty of funny moments that surprise you. But they should've kept more surprises for the movie itself. 

Bad. Grandpa obviously isn't going to be winning any awards, but if you're in need of a good laugh, go see it. I promise you'll have lots of fun. 

My Rating: 7.5/10