Posts Tagged ‘elizabeth banks’

Pitch Perfect 2

The Barden Bellas have won the U.S. acapella championship for three straight years.  But while performing for the President in Washington D.C., a wardrobe malfunction featuring Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) causes the Bellas to lose their championship and their lucrative tour, to the international champs, German acapella group , Das Sound Machine.  The ladies try to get back on their feet, with a legacy member named Emily, (Hailee Steinfeld) but Becca (Anna Kendrick) is distracted by a job with a producer. (Keegan Michael Key) Fat Amy is distracted by the amorous intentions of Bumper (Adam Devine) and even new girl Emily catches the eye of acapella singer and wanna-be magician Benji. (Ben Platt) The only person who has not lost focus is Chloe (Britney Snow) but that’s because she is her 7th year at Barden.  After another disastrous performance, the Bellas go to a singing retreat/boot camp, run by none other than Aubrey. (Anna Camp) Can the Bellas find their voice and take the World Championships from Das Sound Machine?

I liked Pitch Perfect, but I’m wary of sequels.  This sequel is formulaic, the ‘champions fall from grace, can they regain their championship’ plotline is all too familiar, and even though a lot of jokes work in this movie, a lot more jokes don’t work.  The Germans are standard issue superior Sounding Eurotrash,  the jokes from the Latina member of the Bellas, Flo, are just insulting, and even the asides from Lilly, the shy Asian girl, aren’t as shocking.  The many romances are clunky, and run contrary to the supposed feminism of the film. The ending is eminently predictable.  The music is good, but the potential viewer can get the soundtrack for the songs, sitting through half a good movie is not really worth it.

The acting is ok, Anna Kendrick’s performance seemed forced, like she is going through the motions, Rebel Wilson, the breakout star of the first movie hams it up relentlessly and that ruins her performance. Hailee Steinfeld, the new addition doesn’t add much comically, but she can at least sing. Katy Segal of Married with Children fame is wasted as Emily’s mom, she is a great singer and has impeccable comedic timing.  Keegan Michael Key from Key and Peele is wasted as well.  Elizabeth Banks hams it up also as Gail, the inappropriate acapella announcer.

Elizabeth Banks has built a cottage industry for herself with these movies, as actress, director and producer.  I’m not sure what is so noteworthy about her directing, she stages a few songs, but there’s nothing visually or technically outstanding about this movie, the pacing is ok, but the movie is too long.  Banks gets so-so performances from the actresses here.  Banks had a 29 million dollar budget, I guess that’s low for Hollywood standards, and besides Anna Kendrick’s salary, the money was spent on nothing spectacular.  The movie was filmed in Baton Rouge, they didn’t even go to Denmark.  But alas, it made 287 million, so there is going to be a sequel, although they seem to be running out of plot, unless the Bellas battle extraterrestrials.  Who else is left?

Pitch Perfect Two: Winding up for another pitch.

mockingjay part 1

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) shot an arrow that brought down the capital’s network, and is now being sheltered in District 13.  She has been split up from her partner in the Hunger Games, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and wants to know where he is. The President of district 13 is Alma Coin. (Julianne Moore) Plutarch Havensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) recommends to Coin that Katniss be named the Mockingjay, the symbol of the revolution.  Katniss resists at first, but after visits to see the destruction wrought by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in District 12, and District 8, including the bombing of a hospital, Katniss is willing to make propaganda films for the rebels. At the same time, Katniss sees a video showing Peeta working for the government making propaganda films. She wants to rescue Peeta, but President Coin is hesitant.

One of the propaganda films Katniss is making features Katniss singing a song called “The Hunger Tree,” and that song becomes an anthem for rebels in District 5, who sing the song while destroying a hydroelectric plant. With the plant destroyed, power to the capital is cut off and the rebels have a chance to rescue Peeta, and a few others, and bring them back to District 13.  Do they make the rescue?

I like Mockingjay Part 1, I like it because it’s primarily a war movie, and portrays war and its consequences in a realistic way.  I like how both the rebels and the government release propaganda films.  One scene is eerily reminiscent of a piece of real life.  There is also less emphasis on the love story and more emphasis on the Mockingjay, as a symbol and a real fighter.  This may be a disappointment to the target audience, but the lack of love story impressed me. There was a twist ending, that I didn’t see coming and that perfectly sets up Mockingjay Part 2.

The acting again varies greatly.  Julianne Moore gives a very controlled understated performance, she is believable as President Coin.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman also gives a low-key performance, and Woody Harrelson is a key part that is a turning point on the film. On the other hand, the younger cast is just so much eye candy.  Jennifer Lawrence yells her lines and thinks that is acting. I don’t know why she gets all these a-list roles, she constantly overacts, and gets praise for it. If she sang the song, she is at least a pretty good singer, maybe she should consider a career change. Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth are pretty boys who substitute looks for acting skills.

The direction is good the pacing is good, the action scenes are worth watching, and the director gets good performances from the veterans in the cast.  Ideally he would have gotten better performances from Lawrence, Hutcherson, and Hemsworth, but their performances are what they are.

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1:  Left me Hungry for more.

catching fire

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself on the horns of a dilemma.   She loves Gale Hawthorne, (Liam Hemsworth) but the audience of the hunger games has fallen in love with the Katniss/ Peeta pairing that they fell in love with during the last hunger games. She’s won the last hunger games and now will get to tour the 12 districts of the country with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) as mentors and goodwill ambassadors.  The problem is, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) knows that she loves Gale, and does not approve, so she pretends to love Peeta, who is completely in love with her.

During the tour, Katniss is supposed to give a prepared speech written  by Effie Trinket, (Elizabeth Banks) but Katniss goes off script because memories of Rue clouded her judgment.  Katniss returns to script, but the revolution continues to foment in the districts.  President Snow is not happy, he thinks Katniss is a troublemaker, and he and gamesmaker Plutarch Havensby (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) add a wrinkle to the hunger games, since this is a Quarter Quell, President Snow forces Katniss to participate,  and even though Heymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) is chosen as Katniss’ partner, Peeta volunteers to take his place.  Do Katniss and Peeta survive the 75th hunger games?

I must say I’m disappointed in the second installment of the Hunger Games.  The first movie cleverly integrated a dystopian society with a satirical look at reality television.  Also, the Katniss character seemed like a strong minded intelligent role model for young girls.  But then the first movie followed in the footsteps of the Twilight series, developing the already hackneyed teen love triangle between  Katniss, Peeta and Gale.  In this movie, the love triangle dominates the story, the revolution against President Snow is almost an afterthought, and Katniss becomes just another lovesick teen girl torn between two boys.  The story is sadly predictable, and getting there is no fun at all.  I know that the studios have a demographic to please, but some adults were forced to watch this movie, throw us a bone too won’t you?  I also found the Mags storyline as manipulative as the Rue storyline in the first movie.

The performances varied greatly.  Jennifer Lawrence gave a comatose performance, no urgency about either the revolution or her male suitors.  She delivered the lines in a dull monotone, either this is bad direction or she is genuinely uninterested in this character.  Liam Hemswoth and Josh Hutcherson are just poster boys and their characters are just as one-dimensional as a poster hanging on a tween girl’s wall. There were good performances by great a actors, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth Banks and Jeffrey Wright all gave great performances, but their roles were too small to be memorable, all to make room for the drippy romance.

The movie was far too long and unevenly paced, and the director should have taken the younger actors aside and gotten less leaden performances from Hemsworth, Hutcherson, and especially Lawrence, because she is capable of a much better performance.

The Hunger Games Full of it.

the lego movie

President Business (Will Ferrell) steals the Kragle, an object of unlimited power, from Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) a prophet who predicts that someone called the Special , will find another object called the Piece of Resistance, that has the ability to stop the all-powerful Kragle from inflicting any harm. An average construction worker named Emmitt Brickowski  (Chris Pratt) is so good at fitting in, and following all the rules, that he doesn’t leave an impression on anyone.

Emmitt is happy listening to his favorite song, “Everything Is Awesome” and watching his favorite show, “Where Are My Pants” both produced by the Octan corporation, whose CEO is President Business.   He follows the blueprints to build everything, and is perfectly content to go on living the way he lives. Emmitt is at the construction site after hours, telling someone to leave because it’s against the rules.  All of a sudden, he realizes that the intruder is the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen.  Her name is Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and she’s after the Piece of Resistance.  While Emmitt is transfixed by Wildstyle the Piece of Resistance becomes permanently affixed to Emmitt, and he can’t take it off.  Now that Emmitt has the Piece of Resistance he becomes a target of President Business and his loyal foot soldier Bad Cop (Liam Neeson) President Business is planning to use the Kragle to immobilize the citizens of his realm on Taco Tuesday, because he is a rigid dictator.  Can Emmitt evade Bad Cop and get the Piece of Resistance to the top of the Octan Tower before President Business uses the Kragle on his populace?  Is Emmitt the Special?  Does he fulfill the prophesy?

This is a wonderful movie.  The Everyman has a chance to rise to the occasion, and become the Special.  That might be a hackneyed premise, it may even be borrowed from movies like Star Wars and The Matrix, but that’s what makes this movie so endearing, it doesn’t take itself too seriously at all.  It’s even subtly subversive, ok obviously subversive, anti-corporate and wackily anti-conformist.  The Lego Movie does lose its focus a bit when it becomes solely about product placement when Emmitt zooms around the different playsets, but unlike Transformers (Similar toy, worse movies) The Lego Movie finds its footing, and has a satisfying ending, which is neither cloying nor saccharine, but heartfelt. More important than all the adult themes kids learn the importance of individuality, and also working together when necessary.  Those themes may seem contradictory, but they are not in this movie.

The voice talent is amazing in this movie.  Chris Pratt plays Emmitt as a low key hero.  Morgan Freeman is splendid, just hearing his golden voice as the prophet Vitruvius is worth the price of a rental.  Will Ferrell redeems himself after a string of lousy movies, as the evil President Business, but there’s more to his character than initially appears.  Elizabeth Banks has a great voice, she conveys a sense of innocence, and yet her voice sounds sexy.  Can I say she has a sexy voice in a movie aimed at kids?  Well it’s true.  Will Arnett is hilarious as Batman, and Liam Neeson makes a nice comedic turn as Bad Cop.  There are cameos by a few Star Wars stars, Anthony Daniels and Billy Dee Williams add to the laughs, and professional voice actor Keith Ferguson does a pretty serviceable Harrison Ford impression as Han Solo. Shaquille O’ Neal even shows up as himself.  All the actors understood how much fun this movie was, and joined in the spirit of making a truly entertaining film.

The pacing of this movie is more like an action film than an animated film, so the 1 hour 40 minute length goes by in a flash, rent it and watch it with your kids, or watch it with your friends, it’s that funny.

The Lego Movie:  All the pieces fit to make a very good film.

pitch perfect

Beca (Anna Kendrick) is a freshman at Barden University, the big activity at Barden is a-capella singing.  Beca wants none of it, she wants to be a DJ, but her father says if she can stay in school for a year, and still doesn’t like it, he will pay for her to become a DJ, but she has to have at least one school activity.  Beca reluctantly joins the Bellas, the all-female a-capella singing group.  The leader of the Bellas, Aubrey (Anna Camp) always picked the cutest girls to be part of the Bellas, but she’s had to lower the physical standards for the Bellas a bit, because she vomited all over the audience at last year’s finals, so she lets Beca join, as well as Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) and Cynthia Rose (Esther Dean) who’s also a big girl, and may or may not be a lesbian. The Bellas main rivals, are the Treblemakers, the all-male a-capella group led by an egomaniac, named Bumper. (Adam Devine) Bumper has recently added Jesse (Skylar Astin) to the Treblemakers.  Jesse knows Beca from the radio station where they both work, they’ve become quote close,  but Aubrey’s number one rule is that no Bella ever date or sleep with a Treblemaker. The Bellas make the regionals, but Becca notices that they’re doing the same songs as last year, when they llost, she wants to spice things up a bit with some new mashups, will she get any support from the new Bellas?  Will she get support from Aubrey’s oldest friend and right hand, Chloe? (Brittany Snow )

Of course Pitch Perfect was made because of the popularity of the Glee tv series, and it shares many attributes with Glee, it’s about singing, of course, it’s about outcasts trying to meld with the popular kids  to form a great singing group, and there’s some sexual tension thrown in between the leads.  Some of the characters almost devolve into stereotypes.  Fat Amy is loud and brassy, an Asian member of the group can barely be heard above a whisper, and there’s the ubiquitous gay/lesbian character .  And even though some of the characters aren’t stereotypical, they’re commonly portrayed negative female types.  Aubrey’s the head cheerleader type, a control freak, a person who wants to be queen of her fiefdom, no matter how small it is, and Chloe is a sycophant, who goes along to get along.  And some of the writing even borrows from Dodgeball, believe it or not.

But this movie works, why does it work?  Because it is funny, the music is good, and the actors are endearing.  Anna Kendrick would not have been my first choice for Beca, she’s 26, and hardly looks like a college freshman, but she works as a comic foil for Aubrey, and there is some chemistry between her and Skylar Astin.  Anna Camp really humanizes Aubrey and Brittany Snow is sweet and likeable,  in what could have been a throwaway role. The music is what makes this movie fun, sure there’s Bruno Mars, Price Tag, all the current hits, but there are enough songs from the 80’s and 90’s to keep the older folks happy, like “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” “Don’t You Forget About Me.” and No Diggitty.  Yes there’s autotune, but you must be used to that from Glee, right?  So forget all the shotcomings and enjoy.  Would I let a tween watch it? No, the humor is a bit heavy on sexual references, but an older teen yes.

Pitch Perfect:  Gleefully good.

 

definitely maybe

Maya (Abigail Breslin) wants to know how her father, Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) met her mother, and she wants to know the true story.  The true story is complicated.  Will is a political consultant from Wisconsin, in love with Emily (Elizabeth Banks) his college sweetheart.  He is called to New York to work on the Clinton campaign in 1992, and that means time away from Emily.  Emily asks will to drop off a package to her friend Summer (Rachel Weisz) who lives in New York.

Summer is living with her college professor, Hampton Roth (Kevin Kilne) but she kisses Will all the same.  While working on the campaign, Will meets April, (Isla Fisher)  who is really not interested in politics and is just working on the campaign for the money.  They fight, because will is an idealist, and April is a realist.  Will says he’s going to propose to Emily, and he practices on April.  April hates the wishy- washy way he proposes to her as Emily and tells him so.  They appear to have a good friendship going, but then April’s boyfriend cancels a date and Will steps in, they talk, and then they briefly make out.  Will is clearly on the horns of a dilemma, he is about to propose to Emily, but is undoubtedly attracted to both Summer and April.  Who does he choose?  Emily, Summer or April? Who is Maya’s mother?

I love this movie, it’s a complete story, and for a change I like the ending, I like how all the characters are smart, and have their own lives outside their relationships, Emily could have used a little more character development, but that’s a small issue.  I liked how they integrated politics into the story, and I loved how they referenced Jane Eyre, one of my favorite books throughout the film.  The acting is great, Ryan Reynolds is as good as I’ve ever seen him, funny, sweet and vulnerable.  Rachel Weisz is beautiful sophisticated yet funny and approachable.  Elizabeth Banks does her best with an underdeveloped role, but Isla Fisher is an absolute revelation as April, she is intelligent, tough, doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and the screen crackles with chemistry whenever she is onscreen with Reynolds.  I thought she would be a huge star when I first saw this movie.  I still think she can be.  Abigail Breslin is perfect as Maya, she is precocious without being obnoxious, and as she hears more of her dad’s story, she really only wants him to be happy.  It’s really a complex role and she pulls it off.  Kevin Kline is funny as a lecherous college professor, and Derek Luke is good as Russell, Will’s friend and eventual consulting partner.  This is one of my favorite romantic comedies, because its truly funny, and sometimes touching and sad.  This and Bridget Jones Diary, are right up there in the rom-com department.  In a genre where movies are churned out and predictable, this one is distinctive and unique.  Even the soundtrack is outstanding.

Definitely Maybe.  Definitely.

rolemodels

 

Danny (Rudd) and Wheeler (Scott) are energy drink employees who drive around to schools in a Minotaur topped truck telling kids not to do drugs and to drink their Minotaur themed energy drink.  Danny hates his job, to top it off, Danny’s girlfriend, Beth, (Banks) moves out because he’s being too much of a downer and she can’t make him happy anymore.  One day, as the Minotaur truck is being towed away, Danny decides to be spontaneous and drives the truck free from the tow truck, and runs into a school statue.   Danny and Wheeler can either go to jail, or they can do community service in a mentoring program called Sturdy Wings.  They choose the mentoring program.

Sturdy Wings is run by a former coke addict named Jean Sweeney (Jane Lynch) Jean assigns a kid to both Danny and Wheeler.  Danny gets to mentor Auggie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) a shy soft spoken nerd who likes to play a role playing game called LAIRE, a Dungeons & Dragons type game.  Auggie’s parents desperately want him to stop playing the game and make new fr9iends.  Danny thinks LAIRE is silly but goes through the motions of being supportive.  Wheeler gets to mentor Ronnie (Bobb’e J Thompson),a tough talking smart-alecky kid with a single mother looking for a father figure.  Ronnie is rough on Wheeler at first, but then they bond over Kiss songs and a common fondness for a certain part of the female anatomy.  Wheeler gets in trouble when he takes Bobby to an adult party and loses him, forcing him to walk home alone.  Danny finally realizes how important LAIRE is to Auggie, but gets into trouble by taking Auggie’s side in a LAIRE dispute and getting him kicked out of the LAIRE community.  Can Danny, Wheeler, and Ronnie form their own LAIRE country in time, so Auggie can become King of LAIRE?  Can Danny get Beth back?

This is a very funny movie. Paul Rudd has perfected  the straight man role stoic while crazy things go on around him. He played much the same role in I Love You Man Seann William Scott plays the happy-go-lucky party animal, Wheeler nicely. Banks is funny when she has to be.  But again it’s Jane Lynch who steals the movie, much as she does in Glee, as the former drug addicted head of the mentoring program.  She is always funny in her now trademark hectoring monotone voice.  There’s also a really good supporting performance by AD Miles as Martin Gary, a Ned Flanders type do-gooder who volunteers for Sturdy Wings.  Mintz –Plasse basically plays the role he played in Superbad, and Thompson plays pretty much a stereotype of the smart-guy inner city kid, but they made me laugh enough to overlook the flaws in writing.  The laughs do slow down a bit in the second half, but overall it’s a good movie with lots of laughs.

Role Models:  A model comedy.