Posts Tagged ‘jennifer lawrence’

xmen-apocalypse

The first mutant, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) has re-emerged in Egypt after a long hibernation.  He has absorbed many of the powers of the mutants in his time and now wants to take over the world and remake it in his own image.  He gathers an army, modeled after the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.   Storm (Alexandra Shipp) who is the first mutant Apocalypse meets and transforms.  Angel, (Ben Hardy) who Apocalypse transforms into Archangel, Psylocke (Olivia Munn) who uses psychic energy as a weapon,  and Magneto. (Michael Fassbender)  Now, Apocalypse has tapped into a way to use Charles Xavier’s (James McAvoy) communication device to talk to every mutant in the world.  Can Xavier, Mystique,  (Jennifer Lawrence) Beast (Nicholas Hoult) Quicksilver (Even Peters) Cyclops  (Tye Sheridan) Nightcrawler (Kodi Smid McPhee) and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) stop Apocalypse’s plan to win mutants to his side and rule the world?

I have liked all the other X-Men movies in this series, I did not like X-Men Apocalypse.  The writers chose the wrong protagonist, in my opinion, and they spent so much time developing Apocalypse as the Original Mutant, and they wrote parts for so many mutants, that there was next to no character development for any of the mutants, especially the newer ones, why is Storm a follower of Apocalypse? Mystique seems like the more natural choice to follow Apocalypse, and Eric and Charles could have fought over Mystique like they  did in the first two reboot movies.  The writers tried to model this version of X-Men after Avengers Civil War, with X-Men pit against X-Men, just like the Avengers were pit against one another. One of my favorite characters in the entire series was barely in this movie, and by the time the epic battle unfolded, it didn’t really matter.  Days of Future Past was so creatively written and centered on the right protagonist.  X-Men Apocalypse had a basic plot, too many characters, and very little character development, and it suffers by comparison to Days of Future Past.

James McAvoy is very good as Charles Xavier, almost as good as Patrick Stewart.  He’s got that same restraint as Stewart, he should have had a bigger role.  Michael Fassbender is as good an actor as there  is in movies today, he plays the conflicted Magneto well, and waivers maddeningly between good and evil very well. There is also very good banter between Stewart and Fassbender.  The acting goes downhill from there.  Oscar Isaac is a good actor, he was great in The Force Awakens, and Llewen Davis, but he didn’t have much to do in Apocalypse, except stand around and look menacing.   The writers ask Jennifer Lawrence to carry huge chunks of this movie she is simply not a good enough actress to do it.  Sophie Turner from Game of Thrones is a good Jean Grey, they should have made her role bigger.  Kodi Smit-McPhee looks and sounds too young to play Nightcrawler, he was a child actor.  Olivia Munn is totally underutilized, and one central cast member is reduced to a cameo.

Bryan Singer wrote and directed this movie, and he’s been involved with 4 of the 6 X-men movies, including Days of Future Past, so I don’t know how he thought the screenplay was worth directing.  As a director the pacing was very slow, the special effects were mediocre, and the acting was uneven.  I don’t even have a clue how to fix it, but here are a few suggestions.  Center the story on another character, make Mystique darker, let Storm team up with Charles, and that would at last have made the story more interesting.

X-Men Apocalypse:  Not nearly X-cellent enough.

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joy

Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) has been inventing things since she was a child, but family drama threatens to crush her dreams before she can ever pursue them. Joy gets demoted from a daytime shift to a nighttime shift at an airline ticket counter.  Her father Rudy (Robert DeNiro) show up at her door after an ex-girlfriend dumps him.  He rebounds quickly, and starts dating an Italian woman named Trudy. (Isabella Rosselini) Her mother, Terry (Virginia Madsen) won’t leave her room, or stop watching daytime dramas.   To complicate matters, Joy’s ex-husband Tony, (Edgar Ramirez) is living in Joy’s basement.  Tony swept Joy off her feet in college with his promises to be “the next Tom Jones.”

While on a trip on Trudy’s boat, Joy spills red wine on the boat’s deck, and has to mop up the mess.   Joy cuts up her hands, but comes up with an idea for a self-wringing mop.  Joy sketches the idea with her daughter’s colored pencils, and talks Trudy into investing in it.  Joy puts a prototype together in her father’s factory, and tries demonstrating it in a K-Mart, which leads to her arrest, for attempting to sell the mop without a permit.  Tony has one last Hail Mary idea, he introduces Joy to Neil Walker, (Bradley Cooper) an executive at a fledgling home shopping network called QVC.  Does Joy’s mop sell on QVC?

It’s appropriate that Joy starts with a scene from a fake soap opera, because the whole movie plays like a soap opera.  First there’s Joy’s sketchy father, a businessman dumped on Joy’s doorstep by an ex-girlfriend, and who ends up with an Italian wife or girlfriend, then there’s Joy’s mother, who for some reason won’t leave her bedroom, then there’s Joy’s ex-husband, who’s still living in her basement, two years after their divorce. By the time all the dysfunction is disposed of, the writers finally get around to Joy’s invention, and guess what?  I didn’t care.  It’s only a stupid mop, it’s not a cure for cancer, it’s not a self-driving car, it’s a stupid mop, on a channel that sells cheap plastic crap day and night. For some reason, Joy is singing when she meets Tony.  Why was this scene necessary?  It wasn’t. This movie is supposed to be about how difficult it is to be a female entrepreneur, but all the family drama and impromptu singing actually detract from the central theme.  The ending is much too neat for such a messy story.

The acting is subpar.  Jennifer Lawrence got an Academy Award nomination for this role, God knows why.  I never believed for a second that she was a struggling suburban housewife, trying to make ends meet.  A good performance makes the viewer lose themselves in the character. That doesn’t happen here, she is much too attractive to be a character actress.  Bradley Cooper’s performance is similar, I never believed that he was part of QVC, he just seemed like a very handsome guy playing a role.  Robert DeNiro seems to have lost his touch as a character actor, and seems to be interested in making Rudy into a semi-comic character. Isabella Rossalini doesn’t have much to add to her role besides her Italian accent.

The direction is not good either.  David O. Russell wrote and directed this movie, so naturally he thinks every detail is important in telling the story, hence the pacing struggles, it’s a half an hour into the movie before, the viewer even hears about the mop.  An hour before Cooper is introduced.  Frankly, Russell needs to break up this little company of three actors that he’s got in every movie.  Stars appearing in big Hollywood movies worked in the 1940’s, because Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn were great actors for one, and they made a very specific type of movie, the screwball comedy, which they were very good at. DeNiro’s the best actor of the three, Cooper is good, not great, and Lawrence is not that great an actress.  She is not mature enough to play these character roles.  Russell doesn’t really get great performances from any of the three, and so the movie suffers. Russell also tries visual flourishes, like sudden zooms of the camera, crane shots, silhouette shots, and lots of snow but that hardly breaks up the monotony of a very long film.

Joy:  J-Law and Bradley can’t mop up this mess.

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.

american-hustle

Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) runs a dry cleaner’s store in the Bronx.  Irving then branches out into making loans, where he doesn’t loan any money but is guaranteed a non-refundable payment of 5,000 dollars.  Irving also dabbles in selling forged art.  Irving is basically a con man. He meets a woman named Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) at a party and the two all in love with each other.  Sidney adopts an English accent and becomes Lady Edith, and they con more local businessmen of their money.  One day, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) walks in to Irving’s establishment and asks for a loan.  Richie is really an FBI agent, looking to root out local corruption.  He will let Irving and Lady Edith walk if they give him four corruption convictions.  Irving gets Carl Elway (Shea Whigham) convicted, but DiMaso has his eyes on a much bigger target, the mayor of Camden New Jersey, Carmine Polito. (Jeremy Renner)  Richie is planning on a scam to trap Polito using a fake Arab Sheik, Sheik Abdullah (Michael Pena) to provide one million dollars in funding to renovate Atlantic City, using Polito as an intermediary. Richie has a suitcase of money waiting to give Polito as a kickback, but Polito gets squeamish, and it’s up to Irving to close the deal.  Does he succeed?

I like American Hustle, but it’s largely because it does a good job approximating the 1970’s and because of strong performances by Bale, Cooper, and Renner.  For all the good in this movie, I’ve noticed a troubling trend.  Movies are taking scandalous behavior and making it seem frivolous and lighthearted.  ABSCAM was a serious scandal in the late 70’s, many politicians went to jail for bribery, ABSCAM was another example of the dysfunction between government and the governed in the wake of Watergate.  But writer/director David O. Russell chooses to fictionalize ABSCAM, and make it seem like the FBI is running amok and it portrays Polto as a hero.  Russell uses the word entrapment several times in his script .  Frankly, that is editorializing and that is something a fictional movie should never do.  Russell trivialized mental illness in Silver Linings Playbook and that bothered me, now he trivializes political corruption, and that is too much, because now he is dealing with reality and not just a fictional story.  Russell is not the only one who is guilty of this, Martin Scorsese does much the same in the Wolf of Wall Street.

The acting by the male leads is superb.  There are three aspects of the characterization of Irving that made it stand out.  The first is the comb-over, Irving’s comb over becomes a metaphor for the character. Irving goes to great lengths to hide that he’s bald, just like Irving goes to great lengths to hide the fact that he’s a con-man.  In the end both the fact that he’s bald and a con-man become glaringly obvious.  Second is Bale’s weight gain, call it method acting or whatever you want to call it, the weight gain was effective, it helped the viewer forget that this was Christian Bale, and put the focus back on the character.  Third, Bale’s Bronx accent was impeccable, it’s a very easy accent to get wrong, and he nailed it, further adding to the believability of the character.

Bradley Cooper continues his strong string of performances going back to Silver Linings Playbook.  Cooper plays Richie as a megalomaniac, who puts his hair up in curlers to maintain a certain look.  Richie’s hair is also a key to understanding that character.  He’s vain and self-important and has delusions that he can root out corruption on a large scale.  Jeremy Renner plays Carmine sympathetically, a little too sympathetically, the viewer actually believes that Carmine is working for the best interests of his town and his state.  The female leads don’t fare as well.   Amy Adams has trouble switching between an American and British accents, and Jennifer Lawrence is too young to play such a mature and worldly character.  Lawrence also has trouble with the New York accent.

The direction is nothing outstanding, there are no iconic scenes or quick edits, but the pacing is good, the two hours and 18 minutes goes by quickly.

America Hustle: Bale et al. do the hustle in the 1970’s.

silver linings playbook

Pat Solatano Jr. (Bradley Cooper) is being driven home to Philadelphia from a mental health facility in Baltimore by his mother, Delores. (Jacki Weaver)  Par Jr. has been institutionalized for 8 months, he caught his teacher wife Nikki  (Brea Bee) cheating on him, and beat the hell out of her lover.  Pat Jr. was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and ordered to see a psychiatrist named Doctor Patel (Anupam Kher) and stay on his medication.  Pat Jr. doesn’t want any of it, he wants to go home and work on himself read classic books from Nikki’s syllabus, and jog.  That is Pat Jr.’s road to recovery.

Of course, being at home is not the most nurturing place to be.  Pat Jr.’s father Pat Sr. (Robert DeNiro) is an obsessive compulsive football fan who’s lost his job, and is now making a living as a bookie.  Pat Jr.’s  wife Nikki has taken out a restraining order on him, and everyone in his neighborhood is afraid that Pat Jr. is going to have another attack and attack one of them. Pat Jr.’s self-help plan is not going so well, he’s getting into fights with his parents about the classic books he is reading, and a song My Cherie Amor, sets him off in a rage.  That was his wedding song, but also the song that was playing when he discovered his wife was cheating on him.

Pat Jr seeks solace at his friend Ronnie’s (John Ortiz) house.  At Ronnie’s house, Pat meets Tiffany.  (Jennifer Lawrence) Tiffany is a cop’s widow and she’s having trouble bouncing back from her loss. Although Pat Jr. is taken aback by Tiffany’s almost instantaneous invitation to sleep with him and refuses it, they soon become fast friends, going jogging, discussing psychotropic drugs they’ve taken, and even going on a non-date at a diner, where Pat Jr. orders Raisin Bran, because he doesn’t want it to be considered a date.

Both Pat Jr. and Tiffany have an angle.  Pat Jr. wants Tiffany to deliver a letter to his wife, Nikki, telling her how much better he’s doing, and Tiffany wants Pat Jr. to enter a dance contest to prove how much better he’s doing.  Pat Jr. agrees to learn to dance with Tiffany, and enter the contest, soon Pat Jr. finds purpose and focus in the dance lessons, but still only sees Tiffany as a stepping stone to winning back Nikki.  On the eve of the dance contest Pat Jr. gets a letter from Nikki.  What does the letter say?  Does Pat Jr. win Nikki back?  Does he go through with the dance contest?

I thoroughly enjoyed Silver Linings Playbook.  I did not think that it would be as funny as it was, but a lot of the movie was laugh out loud funny.  Sure, it plays fast and loose with the bi-polar disorder plotline, nobody thinks ballroom dancing is a treatment for bi-polar disorder. This is a movie, for entertainment purposes, not a documentary.  But it does try to make a serious point about mental health, that no one can cure mental illness by themselves, they need friends and family, and psychotherapy and pharmacology, all of it, to start down the road for a cure.

The acting is superb.  Who knew that Bradley Cooper was such a good actor?  I couldn’t tell from the Hangover, that’s for sure.  He handles both the serious and comedic scenes with equal alacrity. Jennifer Lawrence is electric, she supercharges her character with unending energy.  She is a great actress at such a young age, the major roles she’s played are so different, The Hunger Games, Winter’s Bone, and this one, but she’s made the characters in each of these movies unique.  She will be a huge star.  DeNiro will win an Oscar for his role, he handles the comedy much better than his comedic movies, and handles the drama like DeNiro.

The direction is worth noting.  I noticed little things like focusing on Cooper’s hands for a shot to show how nervous he is.  The writing is good, not great, but it was entertaining, and if you want to say that it didn’t take mental illness seriously enough, that is surely a valid point.  But as entertainment, this is a great movie.

Silver Linings Playbook.  It will be golden very shortly.

Image

In the future, the country of Panem is divided into 12 districts.  A boy and a girl from each district are chosen as tributes to play in the Hunger Games.  If they are chosen they get to have regular meals, a rare treat in a country ravaged by war.  But they must battle to the death, until only one survives.  Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) is chosen as a tribute.  Her sister Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) thinks Primrose is too young to be a tribute, so Katniss volunteers to be a tribute, along with another boy in her district, Peeta Melark (Josh Hutcherson)  Peeta has unrequited feelings for Katniss, but doesn’t reveal them until the tv show starts, and then the host of the Hunger Games, Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci plays up the romance in the hopes of big ratings.  Katniss’ mentors, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and Cinna (Lenny Kravitz)  want Katniss to grab the attention of the head gamesmaker, Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) so she shoots an apple off  Crane’s head. The stunt gets Katniss the top score of all the tributes.  Peeta is also chosen.

As the games progress, and the tributes are killed off one by one, Katniss is drawing closer to a young tribute named Rue (Amandla  Stenberg), who undoubtedly reminds Katniss of her younger sister.  The two of them bond and are soon inseparable.  Katniss is also growing closer to Peeta, as she nurses him back to health from numerous attacks. Is Peeta really drawn to Katniss, or is he just using her to make her vulnerable and kill her so he can win the Hunger Games?

In a day and age of extreme politics (Tea Party) (Occupy Wall Street) and “reality” tv it’s easy to picture society devolving into such televised savagery.  Just cross the Roman Coliseum with Survivor and you’ve got a show like the Hunger Games.  That’s the appeal of this movie, we’re so close to something like this happening, and it hooked me right away.  There are weaknesses to this movie, the love story is drippy and syrupy, and there is an obvious attempt at creating a love triangle for later movies.  It’s pretty obvious who’s going to survive, and who’s not.  The Katniss/Rue story is extremely manipulative and predictable, despite all these shortcomings, the dystopian society is never far away and that’s the draw for me.  The characters were pretty thin, other than Katniss Peeta, Rue, and Haymitch.  Here is where the acting kicks in, unlike the Twilight movies.  Jennifer Lawrence did a damn good job of carrying this movie on her shoulders, and while Josh Hutcherson is bland and unappealing, Woody Harrelson totally inhabits his role as a drunken former superstar tribute.  He’s having fun and the audience is having fun with him.  Elizabeth Banks is also fun in a small role as the prim and proper Effie Trinket. Amandla Stenberg is undeniably cute as Rue, and Stanley Tucci is a riot as the hsot of the Hunger Games.  I liked that this movie didn’t take itself too seriously and lightened the mood every once in a while.  There is a lot of violence, some of it pretty graphic, and some CGI that’s pretty scary, I wouldn’t want kids to see this, this is purely for teens and adults.

The Hunger Games. Watch it play out.