Deadpool

Though we haven’t posted in a while, here’s our take on the very popular Deadpool. Directed by Tim Miller and starring Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, and T.J. Miller, it is Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity

From IMDB: This is the origin story of former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopts the alter ego Deadpool. Armed with his new abilities and a dark, twisted sense of humor, Deadpool hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life.

9 out of 10

Comic book movies has never been popular. But with this slew of both solo and team up superhero films in the past few years as well as in the future has brought in an oversaturation of the genre. So seeing a film like Deadpool that flips the cliches of this genre on its, similarly like in Guardians of the Galaxy a few years ago, feels very refreshing even to the most die hard comic book fans. Deadpool stars Ryan Reynolds as the titular anti­hero character Wade Wilson who becomes the “merc with a mouth” after a set of crazy experiments on him that gives him a healing factor. He then sets on a revenge plot on the man who did these experiments on him and save his fiancee, played by Morena Baccarin. The film has gotten a lot of buzz because of its R rating and its hilarious marketing campaign that included marketing the film has a romantic comedy.

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Firstly, Reynolds is outstanding as both Wade Wilson and Deadpool. He had technically played the character before in X­-Men Origins: Wolverine, a film with so much studio involvement that they really butchered the character of Deadpool. So ever since, Reynolds has been fighting to get his own solo movie made alongside first time director Tim Miller because of their love for the character. And it shows in Reynolds quick wit and constant fourth wall breaks. Deadpool, in the comics, knows that he’s in a comic book and so will talk directly to the audience about what is happening. So it is only fitting that in this movie, Wade Wilson knows he’s in a movie and constantly makes references to the events of the film as well as the superhero genre as a whole, which is flat out hilarious. The comedy in this film is so fast and frequent that it took me multiple viewings to pick up on all of it, including the dialogue between Reynolds and his best friend Weasel, played by T.J. Miller. It is easily the funniest comic book movie I can remember in a long time.

The action and direction is also very well done. This movie is a hard R in its rating with much blood and hilarious gore as well as some great use of swears. The film only had a budget of $58 million, small compared to other superhero films, but forced the filmmaker to use practical effects and a smaller scale over a CGI­fest, which makes the film more condensed and tight that doesn’t overshadow its story. This is for good reason because the story smartly weaves in his origin and the present day rather than giving the character’s backstory all at once. It also is able to create an honest relationship between Wilson and Baccarin’s characters that makes you care about how the two will end up, which is pretty surprising from a comic book movie.

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But this does lead into one of my criticisms in that the story separates the two for contrived reasons that seemed more necessarily for the plot than anything. Also, the section of Wade going through the experiments felt a little long and self­serious for the rest of the film. But these are really just nitpicks because Deadpool is a much needed new take on the comic book genre and a very well executed film as well from both sides of the camera.
~Seth

8 out of 10

Are you sick of the superhero setup? Does the endless franchise-building and table-setting nauseate you? Are you quite literally one Samuel L. Jackson post-credits scene away from spewing? What about those formulaic plots driven by characters whose action figures have more personality?

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If you just nodded at your screen and fumed over the latest $11 you gave to Warner Brothers or Buena Vista, have I got the film for you. What if I told you there is a feature out there that’s gleefully dark and profane enough to make Tarantino blush a little? What if I told you that it lampoons its own genre with expert precision while still managing to be a totally exemplary comic book film? My jaded friends, the voice of your cynicism has arrived and its name is Deadpool. It’s f—-ing hilarious.

Deadpool expertly targets the tropes and cliches present in every superhero film today and fires at will, dropping several meta references and regularly taking digs at itself. Even the opening credits for example find a way to attack the all too common casting cliches we audiences have mercilessly been bombarded with. Yet, at the same time, Deadpool is a labor of love for the comic book antics it sets its sights on; no film would lunge at a genre this hard without being a bit of a romantic letter for the category.

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With this following the spectacularly mindbending X-Men retcon Days of Futures Past, Fox has proven it can self-evaluate and clean up its own series as the studio reintroduces Ryan Reynolds’s portrayal of the Merc with a Mouth with all the umph it was sorely missing the first round (Don’t remember it? Neither do I.). Reynolds is given more than enough rollicking dialogue to chew on and, boy, does he do it justice, nailing every cue, snatching the screen every second and making the extremely well-designed (props to the wardrobe department here) scarlet suit work for him.

But it’s not only our namesake hero who gets a touchup with the reboot, the steel goliath Colossus breaks back into film, this time sporting his original design and bonafide Russian accent (If you read X-Men, either of those additions is enough to make you swoon a little). Colossus’s role in the film actually cements that Deadpool is actually a bit of an effective X-Men movie in and of itself: the mutants may not get boatloads of screentime but they actually play their part well as punch-clock, dispatched heroes.

DEADPOOL

Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) pauses from a life-and-death battle to break the fourth wall, much to the dismay of his comrades Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic).

Deadpool’s plot is relatively standard and predictable but there’s enough humor and subversion to carry one through. As far as my desire for a sequel goes, I honestly do think this would work best as a one-shot satire but, obviously, Hollywood moguls probably won’t agree. Whether there’s enough fun fodder for a few more installments is anyone’s guess but, hey, we’ll probably get a few good sequel jokes in at the very least. For now, let’s just enjoy Deadpool for the beautiful project it is (And lament that there was no Wolverine cameo).
~Zach

Hail, Caesar!

Our first review post-Oscars is the Coen Brother’s newest feature film, Hail, Caeser! Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, and Alden Ehrenreich, it is rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and smoking.

From IMDB: Hail, Caesar! follows a day in the life of Eddie Mannix (Brolin), a Hollywood fixer for Capitol Pictures in the 1950s, who cleans up and solves problems for big names and stars in the industry. But when studio star Baird Whitlock  (Clooney) disappears, Mannix has to deal with more than just the fix.

6 out of 10

I knew something was up when this movie was set for release in February. We all knows what happens when movies are released in February. They either suck or are rom-coms. Or Deadpool (more on that next week!). Unfortunately for Hail, Caesar!, it fell into the first category. Suck may be a rather strong word, so for a Coen Brothers film with a slew of stars— Brolin, Clooney, Fiennes, Johansson, Tatum, Hill, Swinton, McDormand, to go through pretty much the entire cast— disappointing might be the most appropriate adjective. 

I will say, there are plenty of really funny moments, largely due to the commitment from the cast to the period. The period style is maintained throughout, buoyed by great costumes and production design but solidified by some really solid performances all around.The entire cast does a very good job; there is no true weak point. Everyone does a fantastic job of staying in the era and dramatizing the time period. Clooney and Fiennes were both hilarious, poking fun of the 1950s Hollywood with perfection. Tatum’s musical number was a sight to behold. Even newcomer Alden Ehrenreich, playing young movie star Hobie Doyle, holds his ground and is pretty funny in what ends up being a sizable role.

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But the acting can only get it so far; the screenplay was relatively weak, incorporating many characters who ended up being useless (namely Johansson and Hill). I kept expecting them to have something to do with the conclusion of the film, but they literally just disappeared. The plot was very scattered; there were a lot of characters without a purpose and a climax that made absolutely no sense and was uninteresting. What was the deal with communism? I still don’t understand. Hail, Caeser!’s primary issue was its failure to amount to anything as a film; the ending was not satisfying nor did it make any sense. A movie with a great cast and so much potential was ruined by its failed storyline, a shame because the Coen Brother’s are usually so good with that.

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The Coen Brothers style is prevalent, from the quirky dialogue to the signature Roger Deakins cinematography. And I personally am a huge fan of them, so the eccentric nature of the film was not unexpected. In fact, I think without that signature style, the film would have lacked any charm at all. Hail, Ceaser! is a Coen Brother’s film that is funny and decent entertainment for six dollar movie Tuesday, but not a movie that I’ll remember years from now.
~Vig

8 out of 10

The Coen Brothers are some of my favorite directors making movies today. With films like Fargo and The Big Lebowski, they make some of the most wonderfully strange and critically­ acclaimed movies in the last thirty years. Now there latest film is Hail, Caesar!, takes place in 1950s Hollywood, focusing on Josh Brolin’s character, who is the head of the fictional Capitol Pictures and his adventures. The trailers focused on the production of the film “Hail, Caesar” and their troubles as their leading man, played by George Clooney, is kidnapped by a odd group of people.

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But the film is more about a day in the life of Brolin’s character in its craziness, and moreover, the Coen Brothers’ love letter to this interesting period of cinema. Brolin links us in between incredible set pieces like Scarlett Johansson in a fantastical swimming dance and Channing Tatum in a sailor’s’ musical number. And it is quite interesting to watch. The film has been getting some mixed reviews from fans who are confused about what the movie is and its unsatisfying ending. And I did walk out wanting closure, with a few plot elements that are picked up and put down before being fully explored, but it made me thinking about the film in a way that I wouldn’t have before.

I also found myself laughing consistently throughout the film. It isn’t like normal comedy with big over the top gags, but is more understated and happens in the really quick dialogue. Many well known actors, like Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton, come in for little scenes and are hilarious in the simplicity of these characters in the overall world of the film. It also appears like really famous actors, like Brolin and Clooney, are genuinely having a really great time acting in this film.

The film is lensed by great cinematographer Roger Deakins, who once again knocks it out of the park by putting real vibrancy in the world and making the set pieces actually feel like you are watching a film in the 1950s, which is truly incredible.

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Overall, the film is definitely not the Coen Brothers best in its meandering through 1950s Hollywood, but I found myself incredibly engaged until the abrupt ending. It is another strangely structured and plotted Coen Brothers film that may have some audiences feeling sour when they leave, but is definitely not one to fully dismiss in its ambition. And being a huge fan of their offbeat style, I fully enjoyed it.
~Seth

The Revenant

Up next on our look at the Best Picture films is The Revenant. Directed by reigning Best Director winner Alejandro G Iñarittu, and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, and Domhnall Gleeson, it is rated R for violence including gory images, a sexual assault, language and brief nudity.

From IMDB: After an attack that occurred in a fur trappers bivouac, across a river, in American wilderness, Hugh Glass (DiCaprio), his son, and his remaining companions, are going back to the nearest outpost. Glass is left in weak condition after being mauled by a bear forcing some men from the team to be his caretakers. One of the caretakers, John Fitzgerald (Hardy), chooses to betray Glass, and leave him to die. Relying on his insurmountable anger and powerful motivation for his family, Hugh survives and attempts to find John Fitzgerald, and make him pay for his terrible decision.

9 out of 10

If Leo does not finally seize that oh-so-elusive Best Actor trophy, I will protest. I will write several strongly worded letters to the Academy. I will make a thousand picket signs and with Leo’s thousand biggest fans, march through Los Angeles, pitchforks in hand. If it wasn’t clear before, If Leonardo DiCaprio does not win Best Actor for his turn as legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass, I will have lost all hope in humanity.

As it stands, I would probably put The Revenant as my third favorite film from the past year (after Star Wars and Spotlight), though there’s no doubt that it was the most intriguing. The premise is perfectly concocted, showing off the perfect mix of revenge, love, and spiritualism. The ensemble cast is spectacular, from the experienced DiCaprio to the younger Will Poulter, previously of We’re the Millers fame. The production design and costumes are spot on, providing this world with realism… albeit a grotesque one.

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The Revenant starts out with an emphatic bang, a battle scene with thrashing, nauseating violence— think Saving Private Ryan, only 150 years prior and with Native Americans and pioneers rather than soldiers and Nazis. The opening scene of the 1998 classic is known for its shockingly violent nature, highlighted by stray body parts and gushing intestines; The opening battle of The Revenant is almost on par. However that violence does not hinder; rather it helps in establishing the setting of the film in a place of conflict and disarray.

 

One of the stars of that battle is of course, Hugh Glass, who is, in the only way I can appropriately put it, an absolutely savage. Obviously this intensity has to be attributed to DiCaprio, who plays Glass with a determination and motivation that makes him a force of nature. From gutting a horse to use its carcass for warmth to eating raw buffalo liver (Leo actually did this! And he’s a vegetarian!), Glass goes to the most extreme lengths to stay alive— something that is evident through DiCaprio’s commitment to the character. He is the shining star of the movie, absolutely controlling the big screen for the entirety of the two and a half hours.

He is of course supported by Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson, the former snagging a Best Supporting Oscar nomination for his extraordinary efforts as the selfish, ruthless Fitzgerald. Gleeson is spectacular in the role of Andrew Henry, captain of the party, following up his solid performance in Star Wars with this great effort. Side note: Gleeson has had just a spectacular year, with starring roles in Brooklyn, Ex Machina, Star Wars, and now The Revenant. Bravo!

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If you saw Birdman, it might be clear to you that Iñarittu carried over his affinity for stretched out camera shots, the most memorable being the bear attack scene, shot in one continuous take. The extended shot puts emphasis on the brutality of the assault: the audience does not get a break from it because the camera does not cut away. This effect is prominent throughout the movie, underscoring the barbarity that Glass faces, which only strengthens his character every time he is able to overcome it.

My only criticism was the importance given to the storyline regarding the Indians and the French— all I really wanted to see was Leo, so each scene that was solely about this conflict felt like an interruption. Though this B plot ultimately served a purpose, I think it was given too much screen time, ruining the pacing of an otherwise great film.

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There are a lot of fantastic things in this movie. This movie is nearly flawless, impressing me in almost all aspects of film making (acting, cinematography, screenwriting, production design), with my only grievance being minor pacing issues. It is an emotional journey, with visceral effects that make it as realistic as possible. The Revenant can be considered nothing less than a successful follow up to Birdman for Alejandro G Iñarittu, one that could thrust him into Oscar glory for the second consecutive year, and finally give Leo that Oscar he deserves.
~Vig

8.5 out of 10

Much has been made of the great feat of endurance that was making Alejandro G. Inarritu’s The Revenant. And despite a comfy chair and a snack of Swedish, and firmly dead, fish coming out I felt that I could empathize somewhat with Leo and co.’s struggle. This sounds harsh but is not necessarily a criticism. Much like a long camping trip into the woods, The Revenant will be divine for some. But for others, The Revenant will be gorgeous, occasionally profound but at the end of the day all a bit much.

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Even the first scene, an attack on the fur trappers’ camp by natives, goes on ever so slightly too long. It is a minor sin but portentous nevertheless. From that scene onwards, the movie is a breathless assault on the senses. DiCaprio’s character, the abandoned fur trapper Hugh Glass, suffers trial after trial at the hands of the brutal land and its inhabitants, emerging bloodied and panting from each. Watching DiCaprio endure the first few is entertaining but as the film enters its third hour, they become tiresome and, as the watcher becomes ever more desensitized to the violence, Inarittu seems determined to keep the crowd gasping through escalating gore.

One possible solution to the problem of length might have been to shorten the film to a more digestible 90 minutes. This is an interesting suggestion but fundamentally flawed. A film titled The Revenant, as infantile as this may sound, has to be an epic. Although its raging 156 minutes may turn some off, in so many other ways the pure mass of the film is the film’s greatest strength. One cannot please everyone when making a film as grand as Glass’ story necessitates, and Inarritu deserves kudos for the pure conviction he displayed in making this beast of a film.

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And to be fair, there are some moments of repose. We are treated to occasional expository glimpses of burning camps and ethereal women on the wind. DiCaprio does well to imbue these scenes with emotion, even if at points one can almost hear the yearning for an Oscar in his breath.

On the more general topic of the acting in the film, it is all about the two men: Tom Hardy and DiCaprio. Both are such well-respected actors and in this film they earn their reputation with two great examples of physical acting. There is a strong stress on the physical there as both talk little and a decent portion of it is largely incomprehensible. In fact, DiCaprio’s most powerful line of the film, a laconic mutter about his son, is in the trailer. In the end, however, it hardly matters. DiCaprio and Hardy are both such immense presences on the screen, not only physically but emotionally too, that the dearth of dialogue becomes irrelevant.

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But as much as the film is really all about DiCaprio’s relentless hunt for those who forsook him, many will find that the most intriguing narrative to The Revenant is that of the Indians who weave in and out of the film’s forests and storyline. The film will certainly not be remembered for its portrayal of Indians and DiCaprio’s brief meeting with a wise healer/mentor at the darkest point of his journey is almost painfully cliché but the film’s portrayal of the plight of the displaced and disillusioned natives is nevertheless a thoroughly interesting piece of The Revenant’s epic puzzle.

In short, The Revenant may be one of the most divisive Best Picture frontrunners in recent history, and there’s a very good chance anyone who will enjoy it has already seen it. But if you like a good vista, and don’t mind a touch of blood, it’s a glorious ride.
~Nic

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

For our first post of the New Year, we take a look at the highly anticipated new Star Wars film. Directed by J.J. Abrams and starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Harrison Ford, the film is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence

From IMDB: 30 years after the defeat of Darth Vader and the Empire, Rey (Ridley), a scavenger from the planet Jakku, finds a BB-8 droid that knows the whereabouts of the long lost Luke Skywalker. Rey, as well as a rogue stormtrooper and two smugglers, are thrown into the middle of a battle between the resistance and the daunting legions of the First Order.

9 out of 10

Star Wars Episode VII had the highest grossing domestic opening of all time, and has already broken 1.5 billion. It beat Jurassic World’s record of 13 days to reach a billion, which had the benefit of opening in China, the world’s largest country in terms of population. Star Wars doesn’t open there till January 9th. This movie is big. Really big.

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It is easily the most hyped movie I’ve been around for, shattering the excitement for Jurassic World, The Dark Knight Rises, and Avengers: Age of Ultron— some notoriously hyped movies of the past few years. Star Wars was going to be a major hit whether it was good or bad, which makes it so much sweeter when you realize that it is actually a great movie.

Admittedly, it has strikingly similar qualities to the original trilogy. From the trench run, to Adam Driver’s character (hint: he wears a mask), this film was either an excellent ode to the original or a carbon copy. I remember turning to Jenya in the theater and saying, “I think I’ve seen this before” at least 4 times. Regardless, it is still action-packed; there is hardly a single boring moment in the film. It is a fun, action packed two hours, if nothing else.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer

 

I loved the three new characters that look to be our new trio of heroes going forward. Finn, Rey, and Poe Dameron portrayed respectively by John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Oscar Isaac had great chemistry with each other (especially the first two) and are interesting characters that I am very excited to follow around in the next two films, wherever they may go. Boyega and Ridley, relative newcomers to the movie scene, were particularly excellent, doing an incredible job leading the film. Not to mention, the incorporation of older characters, namely Han and Leia, was done flawlessly. There were enough of them to make us nostalgic, but not enough to detract from the focus of the movie: Finn, Rey, and to a lesser intensity, Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver), the primary antagonist.

JJ Abrams does an excellent job balancing CGI with practical effects. There’s nothing outrageous like CGI Yoda or CGI Order 66ing. The graphic effects are perfect in the sense that they look great, but more importantly they feel real. The lightsaber duels are not too special, but they’re engaging and fun. Abrams knows exactly what he is doing, and it’s really quite a shame that he’s not going to be directing Episode VIII or IX. Hopefully it won’t fall apart… fingers crossed… very tightly.

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Best of all, the movie is able to have a complete and cohesive story arc but is still able to set up two more films. There are plenty of questions that we want answered, plenty of storylines ready to be carried out, and plenty of original trilogy references to be made. Is Rey a Skywalker? What happened to Luke? How will the Kylo Ren storyline end? Just a few (spoiler-free) questions I am looking forward to having answered.

If you are uncultured and haven’t seen the original Star Wars, you can still enjoy The Force Awakens, though every Easter Egg and nod to the original is all the better if you have. This is my favorite movie of the year, as it provides a fun, exhilarating ride from beginning to end. Disney can have all my money if they keep throwing out gems like this. If you have yet to see this film, then stop reading this review and go see it. It could even be nominated for Best Picture, ya never know.
~Vig

9 out of 10

As I’m writing this, Force Awakens continues its surge past the billion checkpoint. I love it when my commentary doesn’t really matter! Alright let’s get going…

Did you like the original Star Wars trilogy? Great, you’ll love Force Awakens. End of story. Thankfully, there’s no prequel-esque treachery, no disgustingly excessive CGI and actually human sounding dialogue.

It’s Star Wars movie to its marrow. It has everything a diehard fanboy could crave: colorful characters and planets (Brought to life by a welcome return to practical effects), enthralling actions (Including some of the better dogfights and duels of the whole saga), and a giant, hulking space station that blows crap to smithereens (Carefully study your Star Wars history and take a wild guess as to whether it explodes by the end or not).

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That’s right. It’s more of the same on a bigger scale and, quite frankly, that’s what everyone wanted. Director J.J. Abrams played it safe with this delicate franchise this round and prevailed with especial gusto. The callbacks are precisely placed and as giggle-inducing as expected and, of course, our veterans of the original trilogy who guest in this one make a triumphant return to the universe (Each of them get their own cute little entrances to boot).

But that’s certainly not to devalue the brand new stuff: without spoiling, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega neatly carve out their places in the franchise as the headstrong Rey and the reformed stormtrooper, Finn, respectively. They’re incredibly likable and boast a chemistry that matches, dare I say, the original cast of A New Hope. All the while, Adam Driver proves naysayers wrong as the capricious yet calculating Kylo Ren (Emo? A little but just the digestible amount, I promise). As far as the new worlds go, Abrams’s team does a fine job of painting a post-war galaxy with some great set pieces that only boost the creative action sequences.

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It’s admittedly hard for me to criticize this one as a fanboy (Okay, you got me, I went on opening night. May’ve saved a seat for two hours and all…) but I guess the most I can say is that I did know what was going to happen about five minutes before at a time (For example: a group of rebels trying to free a prisoner? What could possibly happen?). However, that’s simply a consequence of the film adhering to the standard Star Wars formula, which is both this movie’s blessing and curse. I will say too that the rewatch value on this flick is a little low after all the reveals have been, y’know, reveal but I’d advise any viewer to just take it as it is: a beautiful piece of fanservice, by a Star Wars nerd for Star Wars nerds.

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At long last, one of our favorite fictional universes has been done its justice with a film that injects new all new, thumping life into the world. If you aren’t one of the millions who’s done so already, strap in and see it. When it’s over, I assure you all previous Star Wars-related injustices will feel like they took place long ago in a galaxy far, far away.
~Zach

 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

Up next is the finale to the Hunger Games series, Mockingjay Part 2. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth. It is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for some thematic material.

From IMDB: After young Katniss Everdeen agrees to be the symbol of rebellion, the Mockingjay, she tries to return Peeta to his normal state, tries to get to the Capitol, and tries to deal with the battles coming her way…but all for her main goal; assassinating President Snow and returning peace to the Districts of Panem.

5 out of 10

I am not a reader. The only books I read are for school, and even then I tend not to. The three books in the Hunger Games trilogies are some of the few books I’ve ever read for pure entertainment. Since I don’t read many books, I don’t really hate many either. Mockingjay, the final book in the trilogy, is one of those books I really didn’t enjoy. Spoiler alert: I didn’t like the movie any better.

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First things first, did anyone actually ask for it to be two parts? It works for Harry Potter because the seventh book had enough substance for the split to work. Mockingjay does not, so the split is just a giant cash grab that totally ruins the quality of both films. The first part was slow because it lacked the material to work around, and this one fell into the same trap. Every little thing was stretched out, making the pace of the whole thing ridiculously slow. It was just a pain to sit through.

Not to mention, the characters didn’t really do much to help. Poor Jennifer Lawrence… she is so much better than the Katniss that the screenwriters presented her with. Katniss might as well have been the Hulk because she is always angry. There was no inflection in the emotions she output. The same thing can be said for Peeta and Gale— two characters with tremendous potential, but instead poor writing makes them one sided and boring. The writers focused too heavily on the whole Gale vs Peeta thing, probably in hopes that the battling romances would provide something interesting to an otherwise mundane film, which it did not.

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My biggest problem with the novel was that I had no idea what was going on, as it lacked flow and general organization. I can easily say the same for the film; I quite literally had no idea what was going on. I could not keep track of where Katniss was going and when. Every time I thought she was going to the Capital to finally end the mov— I mean the fight, she went somewhere random and proceeded to waste ten to fifteen minutes doing nothing. When she finally gets to the capital, and the big battle happens, they decide to knock her out for all of it. I’m not sure how much of this I can attribute to Suzanne Collins’ poor writing, but I can say I went through the same struggle while reading the book. Take that as you will.

What this movie missed was action. It was too much dialogue, too much political talk. What made the first two films successful was the balance between the politics and the action. Mockingjay is ruined by a misplaced focus on the politics of the world, rather than giving audiences what they want.

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Its pretty late in the game for me to be writing this review, but if you have yet to see this movie, I’d advise you to save your time. There is no use in ruining the first half of the series, which is actually pretty solid. I really like the Hunger Games as a whole, which makes it really upsetting that I feel obligated to say such poor things about its finale. But alas, here we are, at the end of a solid series with a disappointing final sequence. Too bad they can’t wipe it out like X-Men did.
~Vig

6 out of 10

This is the final installment of the Hunger Games franchise that seems to have ended
rather quickly considering the speed of which the movies have been produced. I read all three books a few years ago and while I enjoyed the first two, the third felt very slow to me and didn’t amount to a huge conclusion to the trilogy. But I was actually surprised to find the first part of
this finale last year to be interesting in its focus on propaganda yet unnecessary considering its shortness of the book.

In this film Katniss, again played by Jennifer Lawrence, leads a rebellion with all of the districts banding together to take on an uprise against the capitol and President Snow, played by Donald Sutherland. She joins love interests Gale and Peeta in a squadron of rebel leaders
enroute to seize the capitol. And her conversations with them are the best part of this movie, reflecting a mature element of this film from these well fleshed out character that was not present in the book. If you pair this character motivation with the three solid performances, especially from Lawrence who can’t turn in a bad outing if she tried, and you have a very interesting layer to the film.

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But with that being said, the film is extremely slow for the first two acts. There are many scenes of characters just walking or sitting while not talking each other that feel much more like filler than real moments poignancy that the audience needs to watch. There are some very
exciting and at some points haunting action set pieces, but they come and go so fast that it goes right back to the slowness that weighs down on the film. This slowness, which is my main qualm
with the film, is not the director or the actors fault but more the studio for deciding to split a small book that was already very slow into two parts for the sake of sucking more money out of the
franchise. It caused the first movie to be very slow and not build up to anything and the second movie to be very slow as well, but does have a thrilling and mostly satisfying conclusion. The film ends in a very sophisticated way that is much more mature book concludes. But these
stakes of the conflict aren’t very well presented until the climax which is very disappointing considering the amount of time they had to present that within these two films.

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This film is very dark and somber considering it being based off of a young adult novel, which go to varying degrees of success. In some instances, the darkness works to display it as an allegory for how many governments and leaders have been run throughout history with the idea of power being a common theme. But at other times, the dreary tone feels melodramatic with the PG­13 rating that the filmmakers have to abide to, which causes a lot of the dark elements to be very watered down to accompany a full audience.

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Overall, the film is a mixed bag of good and bad elements with the diagnosis being that splitting up a book into two movies hurts the overall product of a franchise.
~Seth

 

The Martian

Hi everyone! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. We’re back with our first full review in a long time with The Martian. Starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, the film is rated PG-13 for some strong language, injury images, and brief nudity.

From IMDB: “During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring “the Martian” home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible, rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney’s safe return.”

8 out of 10

It’s been a while since I wrote one of these, so please excuse the rust. Anyhow, I saw a funny quote on Twitter about The Martian that I thought I’d share; “From Saving Private Ryan, Interstellar, and now The Martian, America has spent a lot of money trying to retrieve Matt Damon”. While I think this does speak to Damon’s incredible star power, it also reflects an audience’s thirst for adventure, which The Martian has plenty of. Now I’m not saying it is comparable to Saving Private Ryan or even Interstellar, but it is definitely a very entertaining film that has deserved the praise it’s received.

It has an innate similarity to Gravity that’s impossible to avoid simply because they are both space survival films. However, beyond the basic plot, there is absolutely nothing else they have in common. The Martian is fun— rather than being solemn and dramatic, it’s lighthearted, almost cutesie. While I definitely appreciated this change of tone, I wasn’t sure I loved the writing of the humor. It was trying a bit too hard for me. 

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In addition to the heavy incorporation of humor, I thought there wasn’t enough depression on Matt Damon’s part. For a guy who’s stuck on Mars, I didn’t see enough of a struggle. There were moments of frustration but nothing more, no sustained moments of gloom and hopelessness, which is part of what made Gravity so powerful. While I do feel like this made The Martian a fun movie, it also made it less rewarding.

That being said, Damon did do an excellent job overall. It takes a lot of ability to drive a storyline like he does in this film, while also remaining genuine and entertaining. Unlike Bullock in Gravity, however, there is a supporting cast that gives the film a new dimension. Rather than Damon being by himself, his struggle affects many other people around him. This isn’t just a story about Mark Watney, it’s a story about the entire NASA program, and this angle makes the film more enjoyable. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, and Kate Mara round out a stellar cast that allows for there to be multiple interesting characters that are each important to Watney’s return home.

Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who faces seemingly insurmountable odds as he tries to find a way to subsist on a hostile planet.

And how can I write this without mentioning Ridley Scott, director of Alien, Blade Runner, and Gladiator. He had the difficult tasks of 1) Distinguishing his piece from similar films (like Interstellar and Gravity) and 2) managing the slower pace of the film, since it takes place over almost two years. Fortunately for us, he passed both tests, while also making it an aesthetically pleasing film. It’ll be interesting to see whether Scott can get that Oscar win this year— he’s 0-3, and wasn’t even nominated for Blade Runner or Alien.

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This movie certainly has its flaws, but all in all, I came out of it having thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was funny, charming, and straight up just an interesting movie (it helps I’m a nerd, but either way…). It doesn’t have the depth of Gravity nor the poignancy of Interstellar, but it has got its own personal flair that makes it great in its own respect.
~Vig

9 out of 10

If you like the nitty gritty of space travel (The math, the science, the play-by-play engineering and tinkering and strict physical laws) but don’t particular enjoy Sandra Bullock’s heavy breathing, Gravity wasn’t for you. If you like the nitty gritty of space travel but aren’t into the “McConaissance” (“Murph! Murph! Murph!”), Interstellar wasn’t for you.

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If you like the nitty gritty of space travel now though and want to get in on the recent swell of realistic science fiction, your film has arrived and its name is The Martian. Let’s ditch the thesaurus here: it’s an awesome movie. It’s smart but accessible; slick with polished visuals and humorous while maintaining its sky-high stakes. Above all that, it’s just plain fun.

The setup of this film is relatively routine in comparison to the hefty, complex stories of some of its peers: Matt Damon’s character, Watney, is stranded and must be rescued (Again. Hollywood must really hate our favorite Harvard alum.). Armed with a few months of resources and a thumping 70’s playlist (Think Guardians of the Galaxy’s soundtrack) one of his fellow crewmembers left behind, Watney has to simultaneously survive and signal back his group for an impromptu rescue.

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The story is actually not quite deliberately paced; it’s just a fun hodgepodge of dilemmas on the Red Planet that force out Watney’s inner-Macgyver for the first hour or so, in fact. But the movie’s snappy dialogue (whether credit belongs to the novel or the screenwriter, I’m not sure) and splendid looks keep everything rolling relatively briskly; simple tasks like sprouting a few potatoes or roving along the rocky planet with a busted plutonium core become enthralling challenges.

I found myself marvelling most at all the cinematic angles here. A film adaption of a book warrants its existence when it finds some new way to tell the tale and that quality is definitely present here. Mr. Ridley Scott takes advantage of everything from webcams to security cams and eases from basic shots to innovative angles throughout the entire film. In short, in a relatively bare atmosphere, everything just looks intriguing.

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Damon, of course, impresses as the headstrong Watney in a bit what plays out as a one-man show. I have to give credit to any character that moves through his “how-to”s and explanations with such a relaxed attitude that surviving on a desert planet seems, well, doable. He doesn’t carry this trek alone though: the whole star-studded cast delivers (Donald Glover and Jeff Daniels specifically come to mind here, not to exclude any of the other talented actors).

If you’re a fan of the disco genre (God and Spotify know I am), I’m sorry, but the retro style takes beating in one of this film’s funniest running jokes. Otherwise, I really can’t sum up the best quality of this movie better than one of my friends coming out of the theatre: “It was a ton of fun. I’ve really missed having a good fun movie.”
~Zach

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Hey readers. Sorry for the hiatus– We will be posting less frequently for a few months because of the business of senior year, but for now, here is Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, and Simon Pegg. It is rated PG-13 sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity

Rogue Nation follows the adventures of Ethan Hunt (Cruise) as he attempts to hunt down the Syndicate– a rogue organization that is attempting to have him terminated. But on top of that is the fact that the IMF– the organization of which he is a part of– has been shut down, pitting him up against the United States Government as well.

8 out of 10

The Mission Impossible series has a weird progression in terms of quality. The first movie was pretty solid, definitely good enough to spawn sequels. The second was a bit of a clunker, and the third was an upgrade, but still not up to par with the original. But then it experienced a weird sort of renaissance, with Ghost Protocol being very good and Rogue Nation being probably the best film in the series yet. It is filled with intriguing characters, a gripping storyline, and action that can be only be described as badass.

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Tom Cruise is excellent as always, giving Ethan Hunt an appealing intelligence and coolness that is essential for a leading character. He is joined by Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, and Ving Rhames, who play a trio of agents that provide a dynamic that Ethan needs, specifically comic relief. Pegg, mostly known as a comic actor, provides a bit of that, but also plays a surprisingly charming sidekick. Renner is solid as always, and Ving Rhames was a steady presence that provided really solid comic moments as well. The main crew is in top shape, giving the film a good basis for success.

One thing I like about the series is that, while the films sort of connect, you can watch any of them out of place and still understand what was going on. While there was definitely some remnants of the Ghost Protocol action, the whole deconstruction of IMF is easy to follow. The establishment of the Syndicate, while slightly more confusing, is still pretty simple to get a handle on, event with details leaking over from Ghost Protocol. The whole man vs world thing makes for a very interesting conflict for us to follow, especially because of how quickly it all dissolves in the first place. We are thrown right into the story, and it never relents in interest, keeping us entertained and invested for the duration of the film.

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But undoubtedly the thing this movie excels in is it’s perfectly executed stunts and action scenes. They are so obviously unrealistic, though that hardly matters because of how well executed they are. There was a bit of everything; some plane fights, assassination attempts, car chases; all of them choreographed really well and edited together to perfection. The diversity of the action, plus the incredible execution equate to a fantastic action thriller that bodes well by any measure.

The one flaw in this movie was the weakness of the villain, who had no established character, and did not feel like a threat. It was very Marvel-ish, if you ask me. He didn’t appear enough to have us thoroughly dislike him. He was just filler.

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That being said, Rogue Nation is successful in accomplishing its goal: being an entertaining spy thriller that takes us on a fun ride from beginning to end.
~Vig

9 out of 10

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, like its protagonist, has no difficulty overcoming impossible odds. It would have been easy to cruise on the success of the last movie by yet again having an end of the world scenario, but the creators chose to scale back and make it a more personal film, this decision helping the film greatly.

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Tom Cruise’ vendetta against the mysterious Syndicate was very fun in the way that every movie rampage is fun, but while Cruise may have felt a need for a rampage, as the audience I felt a powerful “Eh” towards the villain since the film’s only real attempt to make us hate them is to kill a character whose name I cannot recall and whose dialogue amounted to three to four sentences about Jazz music.

Cruise’s jaw dropping stunts captured my attention in the same a Nicholas Cage performance does: them being off the wall, completely real, and scary in the way you think someone might die. Cruise in general delivering another good performance but at this point its as expected as me getting rejected.

Simon Pegg was my favorite part of the last film and I was overjoyed at how much additional screen time his character Benji received. The elaboration on his loyalty to Tom Cruise was really interesting as well as touching since we got to see how deep the bonds of friendship went with the whole MI team, his character really being an emotional center point for the audience due to his friendly and funny nature.

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Jeremy Renner, much like his Avengers counterpart, is kind of a blank slate still, his character weak and not especially essential although his partnership with Ving Rhames helping to bring some good scenes with the two of them hemming and hawing at one another like an old married couple.

Rebecca Ferguson played the complicated character Illsa, a mysterious woman whose shifting allegiances make her hard to track and predict. Her chemistry with Tom Cruise being great with their pseudo-romance making their scenes fascinating to watch.

Now that we got all that stuff out of the way let us sink our teeth into the real treat of the film: THE ACTION. This film has some freaking great action.

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We got a badass plane scene, a brutal fistfight, and an assassination prevention in the first part of the movie! The action is shot beautifully, its beauty and fluidity a marvel to experience, it being complemented by a great score and overall fantastic choreography. This film was a true joy to sit through for me since I received not only a good story, but also a great adrenaline ride.

Sure there are some flaws in the film, but they are minuscule enough to not distract you and let you enjoy a great spy thriller.
~Jenya