The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (film)

The Hunger Games (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What can I possibly say about the Hunger Games which hasn’t already been said?  The Hunger Games, top box office for at least the last 4 weeks, grossing hundreds of millions of dollars in the last month, record sales for Lionsgate, and the number 3 opening box office of all time, is an entertaining film.  Given Team Katniss vs. Team Bella, Katniss could break Bella’s balls any time of day or night, obviously.

As a reader of the trilogy prior to this Hunger Games box office madness, I have to say I was a bit disappointed by the film.  The pace was good, the film, entertaining as a whole, but there was so much glossed over.  I mean, what can you do when you try to condense a few hundred pages of 1 person narrative into a omniscient film?  It’s a difficult feat to accomplish and the end result was not as good as the book (or the audiobook, check it out!), but at least the filmmakers made it somewhat enjoyable with lots of special effects….$8

If you heart The Hunger Games

Recommendations from …:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Battle Royale (Japanese version)
Mission Impossible

Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris

Nobody likes you Owen Wilson go away you’re stupid! You’re annoying, no one likes yr face. It is too surprised and Jewish. Too incredulous. You are Cameron Diaz but worse because there is a strong possibility you are hiding a penis. Cameron Diaz may be hiding a penis but that is only a slight possibility. It seems like if she did have a penis she would at least be funny. But now yr stupid-ass Cameron Diaz comparison is getting me off topic.

Midnight in Paris is the sort of film a director makes toward the end of his career when he wants to commune with all his heroes. In my opinion no one does this better or more lovingly than Woody Allen – a guy completely unashamed to share his most precious influences (i.e. where he has been stealing from). Ingmar Bergman for ex. Or in the case of Midnight – Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso . . . Allen is a director with balls enough to blatantly imitate and physically embody his idols as a form of praise. No one re-exhumes the dead like he can.

Allen has also be known to heap praise upon the cities he is shooting. Midnight makes an argument for Paris as utterly wonderful which I find admirable since I always envisioned Paris as having nothing but that rich food and heavy sauces, sidewalks littered with dog shit, and snooty people. Allen uses the landscape of Paris to his advantage, cramming the message that the city is chock-full with gorgeous art and architecture. Easy to forget having no geography, easy to forget to appreciate living in America – the most unabashedly generic nation on earth (esp. between the coasts).

Rachel McAdams is as startlingly beautiful as ever. She has undeniably become one of the great actresses of her generation. Michael Sheen superb as always. Owen Wilson forgettable and unnecessary – a missed opportunity for Allen not to have replaced him with a more interesting actor – I would have gone with James Franco. Younger, funnier and more literate. I’d say the performance of the film belonged to Corey Stoll who created a comical, commanding and charming interpretation of Hemingway.

Not the filet of Allen’s catalog. A little too magical and a little too little at stake. But he still continues to be one of the most ingenious and undeniably the most distinctive filmmaker today . . . $8

If you heart Midnight in Paris:

Recommendations by DJ Cheet
The Purple Rose of Cairo
Steven Shainberg’s Fur
Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People

Adrienne Shelly’s Waitress

For those who enjoy Woody Allen flicks for their fresh, often affirming view of infidelity – but don’t enjoy them because they think Woody himself is crusty and a lecher – Adrienne Shelly’s Waitress should be on your list. No film that I’ve seen recently has handled the issues of unhappy marriage and impending motherhood in a more fascinating or satisfying way. And few films are more devoid of Woody Allen. I’m pretty sure Woody has never even heard of Waitress. He has been pretty busy seducing far younger women, far fresher-faced women than exist in the Waitress world.

I know you’re thinking Felicity is looking pretty old and haggard these days and it pisses you off because it makes you realize how old and haggard you yourself are getting (unless you are a man, men age like wine, women age like fruit). But you know, the old gal has picked up some fairly impressive acting chops along her way. Which should cheer you up because it goes to show, you can teach an old dog new tricks. New tricks which include an authentic white-trash, Southern accent (authentic as far as I can tell, I don’t actually know as I never consort with white-trash unless I need to buy something from Walmart).

The most impressive thing about Waitress is not the actor from Firefly. He isn’t bad, but I couldn’t figure out if he wasn’t trying to inflect his performance with a mild form of retardation. Which makes sense because 1) they only make retards doctors if the only other people available are white-trash Southerners and 2) most doctors don’t fall in love with white-trash Southerners unless they are either Mormon or mentally handicapped in some profound way. Do you think you have this movie figured out? You don’t. You don’t have a fucking clue.

Waitress is most impressive because of its ability to surprise you in about a thousand delightful ways. You think you have these characters pinned just because they talk funny and their clothes look like they were bought at Kid Rock’s garage sale? Well you fucking don’t. Fewer than 1% of films being made today have less cliche characters than waitress. Just when you think this movie is going to go Leo and Shelly from Twin Peaks – you are pulled into a moment far more vulnerable, far more daring. For people of my generation The Princess Bride is the perfect film for its novelty, its quirkiness, and its nostalgia. I have a pretty good feeling the warmth and the sincerity of Waitress are going to win over a new generation of viewers . . . $8

If you heart Adrienne Shelly’s Waitress:

Recommendations by Quispy
The Good Girl
Whatever Works
8 Women


Barney’s Version

An epic character piece on a whiskey-drinking, cigar-smoking, droopy-eyed curmudgeon we frequently see played by Paul Giamatti. While Giamatti is an actor that has won the hearts of many, he hadn’t won my affection until I saw this movie.  Somehow, even though it was pretty much the same role I’d seen him in before, he convinced me that he’s definitely worth following.  In fact, I’m really looking forward to Win Win.  Stellar supporting roles played by Dustin Hoffman, Minnie Driver, and Rosamund Pike.


What truly won me over was the strong female lead portrayed by Rosamund Pike.  One of the best female characters I’ve seen in years.  Wise, soulful, strong, and kind – and much too good for Barney.  All three wives are unbelievably out of his league, yet it can somehow works.  Good writing is rarely given to female roles.  Here, Pike’s character offered the most insightful and touching dialogue on the screen.

There isn’t too much of plot here.  We follow Barney’s three marriages.  Still, there are elements of suspense as an underlying murder mystery finds it’s way into the narrative.  And honestly, the colorful characters are complicated and endearing enough to hold ground for the film…$8

Yolkie’s recommendations:
Sideways
Little Children
The Station Agent

The Good, The Bad, The Weird

Imagine if Quentin Tarantino and Clint Eastwood had a Korean baby: this would be it.  Korean dudes on horses in Manchuria?!?  Clearly, you gotta see this.  Plus, some of Korea’s most respected actors as the good, the bad and the weird.  Song Kang-ho is a supremely talented actor, previously in films like Miryang (The Secret Sunshine) and Park Chanwoo’s Thirst, Sympathy for Mr. and Lady Vengeances and JSA.  In this he plays the Weird, a treasure-seeking thief, who’s ultimate dream in life is just to go back to Korea and raise chicken and goats.  Jung Woo-sung is the Good, a bounty hunter who hunts bad dudes just cuz, well, they’re bad.  And Lee Byung Won plays the Bad, and plays bad so good…..

The movie has a good pace to it, and always steps on the border of ridiculousness, without quite overstepping the bounds of wanton superfluous violence that it could easily slip into.  The context is as insane as the get-ups; pre WWII, post Japanese occupation of Korea, where these Koreans have escaped Korea to try their fortune in the Chinese desert.  History doesn’t rule the storyline however, it just adds a bit of flavor in the plot.


Did I mention Lee Byung Won plays bad so good?  He also plays hawt so well.  HOLLA!  There’s like a good 10 minutes or so of a shirtless Lee Byung Won, seemingly for no reason but to show off his chiseled abs.   To the people who don’t believe the asian man can get cut, just take a good look at the pic above.  Show ’em how it’s done, son!

All in all, enjoyable, and oh so very cool…$8

P.S. Also available on netflix streaming!

If you heart The Good, The Bad, The Weird:
Recommendations from …:
Inglourious Basterds
Old Boy
Unforgiven

Inside Job

Begs the question – where is Jesus during all this? Millions of jobs evaporated. Thousands made homeless overnight. Pensions stolen. The highest order of academia infiltrated by self-interested consultants. Global financial Armageddon. Only the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have seen it fit to rain down billions of dollars in bonuses to the highest paid 1% on their way to scour the powerless and the meek with fire, brimstone, unemployment, depression, homelessness, no insurance, no health care, and a double-dose of voicelessness. If there is a Jesus it would be excruciatingly difficult for him to comprehend the complexity of today’s financial system. You would have to get him up to speed on a lot of things. Such as what a computer is and why there are no more slaves.

Inside Job does an admirable job (for myself, the layman with literally no money possessed to be at stake) mapping out the failings of the Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush pt II, and Obama administrations to understand or regulate the financial system. It becomes quickly clear finance in the US is one roided-out bully that effectively pushes government around. When massive companies such as Goldman Sachs or AIG aren’t telling government to shut up – they’re telling government to pay up.

But one problem with Inside Job – after identifying a slew of problems – why do you offer no solutions? What am I supposed to do with all my anger? Should I march on Washington? Should I be robbing these CEOs and distributing their wealth in tent cities across America? With a problem as deep-seeded and wide-spread occurs, the best solution may be to move to Canada. Jesus seems like an immobile choice for rescue . . . $8

Babies

BABIES!!!  who doesn’t love babies?  Obviously everyone loves babies.  So pretty smart move focusing on just babies and nothing else.   Thomas Balmes takes us to four different countries to follow the first year of four incredibly cute babies Bayar, Hattie, Mari, and Ponijao.  Bayar is the only boy of the bunch.  There are a few interesting things to note about babies through this study, 1) that although the babies are really small, can’t talk to really gesture, you can see how different their personalities are, and you can actually like (or like not as much) one baby over another.  and yes, I compared, and yes, I came out with favorites; 2) how much the babies adopted what they saw around them as things they would do themselves; and 3) how similar and how different each one of them was based on their environment.  Nothing ground-breakingly new, but still is interesting to view these development of the brand new humans first hand, in an accelerated journey through their first year of life.

I also found myself worried over the safety of some of the babies, but they all turned out fine!  When Bayar looked like he was about to get crushed by a horse‘s hoof, the horse evaded him and he crawled through the horses legs, happy as a plum.

This is a movie focuses on the adorable-ness of the protagonists, but in the context of  the lush scenary and beautiful backgrounds of BayanchandmaniMongolia (Bayar), OpuwaNamibia (Ponijao), San Francisco, US (Hattie), and Japan, Tokyo (Mari).  Best of all, this is currently available on streaming at netflix, if you have a subscription.  An enjoyable film with minimal dialog but plenty of ooh-ing and ahhh-ing…$8

If you heart Babies:

Recommendations from …:

Mad Hot Ballroom
Hero (visually beautiful)
March of the Penguins

David Fincher’s The Social Network

O hail no! A movie bout a bunch a white boys doing shit on they computers? A bunch a white boys, prolly Final Fantasy-playin mothafuckas, at Harvard on they computers and Justo from NSYNC is in this shit too? Shit sounds boring as hail son.

And so I was surprise when my boy Scooby-Treat Facebookt me and was all, ‘has you seen this shit about FB? This shit is off tha hook big dawg!’ And I was like, ‘yo you seen it w/o me puto? Who you seen it wit?’ And he wuz like ‘doze niggas Chiya-Pet and Daze-E-Duke.’ And I woz all, ‘nobodyz txted me or nothing. Imma gonna beat yo asses!’

So tha nex day I’m at tha FB movie by myself all pissed like, this is bunk I’m gonna beat Scooby’s ass. And then I wuz like oh shit dis is actually pretty good ya’ll. I mean yeah it’s about all deez crackers and Aryan-looking muthafuckers doing what they do, such as playing on computers and math and wearing their caps backward. But dis wuz some true-life Good Will Hunting shit son. And this FB guy, this Max Zuckercorn guy – he was as much a genius wid hiz mouth as wid hiz brain yo. He be slaying muthafuckas down wif his words like, ‘you only worth my minimum wage of attention you cracker-ass snatch! I’m gonna make yo house into my ping-pong room playa! I showed you and I showed the world! I didn’t use your codes puto!’

And then JT be all like, ‘yeah dawg you tell um go fuck theyself. Now I gotta snort my cocaine rocks out this white girl’s belly buttons.’ And then this Eduardo cat be like, ‘I’m gunna fuck you up JT. Oh shit!!! My hot Asian girlfriend is lighting my trash can on fire!’

So in sum they wuz more action than I predicted. I mean, no niggaz died!!! But FB is not a life/death matter so actually that shit’d be whack if someone did get blasted all a sudden. You’d be like bitch please, you know none a these honkeyz be packin heat in they JanSports. But this did show a battle of da words, a battle of da intellects. And a battle wit Zuckercorn’s own loneliness of da soul. Also my man from NIN be layin down tha hot trax fo this. And his beats be mad bawler yo! Trent you a sick genius.

And that crazy Asian girl Eduardo passed on – I say damn!!! Girl you need to let a real man holla atchoo!! You fine as hail and you know I likes em a little wild and mentally illin. A little dangerous, a little villainous. Holla . . . $8

If you heart The Social Network:

Recommendations by DJ Gun-Ray
The People vs. Larry Flynt
Boogie Nights
Frost/Nixon

Adam McKay’s The Other Guys

O Other Guys! You are daring! You are brilliant and strange! With the exception of Hot Fuzz I don’t think I’ve watched a more interesting buddy/cop flick satirizing the conventions of the genre. I only have the vaguest impression of the narrative architecture holding you together. I think it is something like The Pelican Brief meets L.A. Confidential meets Beverly Hills Cop meets Boogie Nights. But the overarching plot is really just extraneous noise. You are strongest when examined scene to scene – there you’re constantly surprising, bravely magical, staggeringly funny.

And did I say surprising? Surprise is really an underrated gift these days – what with directors like Michael Bay, Brett Ratner, and Kevin Smith recycling the same tired muck again. One of your greatest strengths is your investment in humor that is startling.

BONUS – Steve Coogan. Not that he did a lot here, but it’s just a tiny joy to see him anywhere. Undoubtedly one of the finest comedians alive.

BONUS II – The credits. So you decided to squeeze in some socially conscious cartoons at the very end, huh? Well it worked for me. I’m ready to go pillage the vacation homes of some CEOs . . . $8

The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right is a powerful and delightfully humorous film directed by Lisa Cholodenko (“High Art”, “Laurel Canyon”) and screenplay written by Stuart Blumberg.  The movie is simply strong writing fortified by brilliant acting.  Relationships and family drive the film – there isn’t much of a story.  But who cares!  The interactions and dialogue between the delicate relationships of lovers, parents and children, and surrogate fathers were written to perfection with all the necessary elements of awkwardness, humor, and tenderness.  There was a feeling of actual sincerity and connection with each of the characters that we rarely find in movies these days.

I haven’t seen Annette Bening in a worthwhile performance since American Beauty.  Although it’s not quite the same (simply because her role as Carolyn is one of the best female performances ever) – it is up there.  It was deeply satisfying to see her talent put to good use.  Mark Ruffalo… what a sexy motherfucker.  Normally the open-shirt-to-the-navel to bear beefy chest-hair elicits gag reflex.  But Mr. Ruffalo, you reek of sex, even with your exposed mat of hair.  Julianne Moore is as engaging and beautiful as ever.  The more I see of her, the more I realize that she just might be one of the most talented actresses of our time.

One especially satisfying experience in watching the movie is that the trailer didn’t ruin the movie one bit.  The trailer was captivating, but seemed to complete the movie without having to watch it.  Yet the scenes from the trailer were even better in the movie itself.  Since the movie was more character-driven, the trailer did nothing to disrupt the film itself.  Lastly – two more important elements that made the movie complete.  One: excellent soundtrack.  Two: Joaquin Garrido as Luis, the landscaper.  I can’t end this review without a tip of my hat to you . . . $8

If you heart The Kids Are All Right:

Recommendations from The Mug:

Greenberg
High Art
The Squid and the Whale

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

“Enron should not be viewed as an aberration; something that can’t happen anywhere else because it’s all about the rationalization that you’re not doing anything wrong…there (was) the diffusion of responsibility, everyone was on the bandwagon and it can happen again”

Sherron Watkins’ words of wisdom seem oddly prophetic in this time of recession, the recent financial collapse of some of the world’s most reputable firms, and wave of corporate ethics scandals and made me think, did people pay attention to why Enron collapsed?  Sure, you can always blame corporate greed, but what exactly does that mean, when there were so many smart, rational people who to this day disavow anything illicit or illegal was done?  What is about this particular company that elicited this type of response, where it became synonymous with evil, duplicity, and scandal?

I was initially inspired to watch Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, adapted from the book of the same name, because Freakonomics, another movie by Alex Gibney comes out this fall.  Although this movie was not as engaging, moving or life-changing as “Taxi to the Dark Side,” it is a good movie but I struggled with what I should rate it.  Did I like it? It was alright. Was it incredibly engaging? Not really, I mean I had read a lot about the company beforehand. Is it a movie I think everyone should watch? Absolutely, especially in this day and age.

Gibney experts weaves in personal interviews, historical footage, and a few small pieces of re-enacted material to portray a company who’s tragic flaw appears to be the pride of its leaders, in refusing to admit that the ship was sinking.  The allusions to the Titanic were wide and numerous, perhaps a little too numerous honestly, but apt.   The style of story-telling was dry and factual, yet visual (e.g., lots of pictures) and easy to follow.   It was also interesting to note the implied effect on the deregulation of California’s energy market as the guinea pig, so to speak, to Gray Davis’ gubernatorial recall and the election of the Governator, and how that conveniently played into Enron’s profits.

It took me a while to watch this movie, but in the end, still a fan of Alex Gibney.  It’s definitely more a dense film, but an important one…$8

If you heart Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room:

Recommendations from …
Capturing the Friedmans
Wall Street
Food Inc

Lee Unkrich’s Toy Story 3

NOTE TO SELF: Show up minimum of ten minutes late to animated features. Horrendously-bad trailers such as for Alpha and Omega leave bad scarring in the brain. Instead use that time for Sudoku to repair mental retardation. END NOTE.

O you’ve come to visit me once again haven’t you – you spirit of delight! With the recent influx of lame to mediocre, computer-generated projects you have broken free! From gunk. From the wave of infant piss and condescension that is becoming family cinema. You have separated yourself like cream over raw sewage. But I have to ask myself why are you so much better? Is there something in the water over there at PIXAR?

I think your freshness is the key. Films like Twilight and Avatar have taken movie tropes and turned them into something even more contrived and weak-minded. But you take our memorabilia, our nostalgia, and you reinvent it. Make it fresh and shiny and hilarious again. I think what separates good films like you from mentally midgeted films like Avatar is simply – creativity. Avatar was an incredibly anti-creative film. It limped along on its technology-based spectacle and carpet bombing marketing. Luckily for Avatar American box offices do not hold films accountable for producing original ideas or novel story.

But I do and here is what I have to say – Toy Story 3 – you extend my creativity. You extend the audience’s imagination. And that is far beyond any expectations for the mainstream movies these days. And also not going to lie – by the end of you – not a dry eye in the house . . . $8

Get Him to the Greek

O Jonah Hill! You haven’t lost your touch. Or any weight. Stay fat my friend! You’ve really packed them on recently – was it for Cyrus? But it works for you. Not like Val Kilmer. Val Kilmer looks like Val Kilmer’s obese older brother. But you’ve really grown into your body. And you run surprisingly fast! You do so much running in this film! I love watching fat kids run. It’s like watching a dog swimming. There’s something beautiful and miraculous and grotesque about it all simultaneously.

O Russell Brand! You are somehow more feminine than any woman and yet a perfectly masculine rock ‘n’ roll demigod. They need a new category for what you are. It would be just you and Michael Stipe. And maybe Gael Garcia Bernal in Bad Education. You also cry fantastically well. Tears of a clown. But you sold me. I thought, this guy knows what it is to be a heroin addict, father to an Italian photographer’s son, separated from a maniacal model/musician (whom is engaged to Lars Ulrich), gold medalist in debauchery, rock legend to millions, and sick enough (or generous enough) to engage in multiple gay sex acts with Jonah Hill. Good call on Nick Stoller’s part to focus the Forgetting Sarah Marshall spinoff on Aldous.

Puffy Diddy – sometimes you surprise me. When I saw you in Monster’s Ball I thought hey, that guy actually didn’t ruin the movie at all. Same goes here except you were good! A true asset to the movie as you got my expectations real low, and then you delivered a B+ performance. Applause to the whole team . . . $8

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