Posts Tagged ‘phillip seymour hoffman’

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.

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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 master

 

Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is in the Navy during World War II.  After the war ends, he drifts aimlessly from experience to experience.  Freddie works as a photographer in a department store but gets fired for getting into a fight with a customer.  Freddie then finds himself picking cabbages and making his own liquor with Filipino migrant workers.  The workers chase Freddie off for trying to poison one of the workers.  Tired from running and drunk, Freddie stows away on a ship called The Alethia, where he meets Lancaster Dodd  (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) Mr. Dodd seems to have discovered some universal truths that he wishes to impart upon young Freddie. Dodd also seems interested in Freddie because of his ability to mix drinks.

Dodd begins a series of mind control exercises with Freddie,  called processing and by the time Freddie and Dodd get to a party in New York, Freddie is Dodd’s unquestioning disciple of Dodd’s group called The Cause.  When a man called John More (Christian Even Welch) dares to question Dodd’s teachings which seems like nothing more than hypnosis, and speculation about past lives, Freddie and Dodd’s daughter’s boyfriend, Clark, (Rami Malek) unleash a beating on More that silences him as a critic.  Dodd and his followers move to Philadelphia, where Dodd is arrested for practicing medicine without a license, and Freddie is arrested for assaulting the policemen who arrest Dodd.   In jail, Dodd and Freddie get into a raucous shouting match and Dodd’s older daughter, Peggy (Amy Adams) is instantly suspicious of Freddie’s intentions.  Is Freddie ready to leave his life in The Cause behind?  Or is he trading one addiction, alcoholism for another, The Cause.

The Master is clearly a critique of cults, specifically Scientology.  It is at its most intriguing when illustrating how a follower is programmed.  Freddie is stripped of his individuality, by a series of increasingly probing questions and repetitive exercises. Freddie is made to believe that only Dodd can save him from his self-destructive habits.  There is a confrontation building, but then the movie inexplicably moves away from the collision course promisingly laid out in the first half of the movie and wanders aimlessly through a series of events, in other words the movie behaves much like its main character, I blame writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson for not taking the subject head on.  I hope he wasn’t intimidated by the fact that several  major Hollywood stars are Scientologists, that would be disappointing. There is a lot of nudity in this movie, I mention this only because the nudity seemed completely unnecessary, and didn’t add to the storyline whatsoever.

The acting is very good, for two of the principles anyway.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman is riveting as Dodd, drinking, joking and even singing one minute and spouting New Age-y sounding philosophy the next.  I’m perplexed by all the buzz over Joaquin Phoenix’s performance, I found his performance disjointed and barely coherent.  He was great in the Gladiator, Walk The Line, and To Die For, but something was lacking here.  I realize he’s playing an alcoholic, but I think he overplays his hand.  Amy Adams gives a strong, powerful performance, light years away from her usual saccharine romantic comedy persona.  This performance is closer to her tough girl role in “The Fighter.”  Adams is building quite a dazzling resume.  The pacing is slow, slow, slow.  Again I lay this at the feet of Paul Thomas Anderson, he could have easily edited 2 ½ hours down to a more manageable length.

The Master.  Not Masterful.

the_big_lebowski

“The Dude”(Bridges) is a California slacker/stoner, who is unemployed, has no prospects for work and doesn’t seem to care. He likes to bowl with his friends Walter (Goodman) and Donny (Steve Buscemi) Suddenly, The Dude’s life takes a bizarre turn when two thugs break into his house, and one starts urinating on his rug.  The Dude’s name is Jeff Lebowski, and he is a victim of mistaken identity, the crooks wanted The Big Lebowski,(David Huddleston) also named Jeff Lebowski a millionaire philanthropist whose trophy wife Bunny is busy spending money all over town.  The Dude doesn’t care about the Big Lebowski or his philanthropy or his trophy wife, he just wants his rug replaced.  Well, the Big Lebowski tells The Dude to go peddle his papers, he’s not interested in compensating The Dude in any way.

No sooner does The Dude leave The Big Lebowski’s house then he gets a call from the Big Lebowski’s sycophantic assistant, Brandt, (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) saying that Bunny has been kidnapped and the kidnappers want 1 million dollars in ransom. The Big Lebowski wants The Dude to make the drop to the kidnappers.   The Dude brings Walter to make the drop, Problem:  Walter is a high strung Vietnam vet with a plan of his own, which The Dude knows nothing about.  Walter switches the million dollars with a suitcase full of underwear, so the kidnappers now have dirty underwear.  Soon thereafter, someone steals the Dude’s car.  After the car is stolen, Maude Lebowski (Moore) the Big Labowski’s daughter calls the Dude, and says Bunny is faking the kidnapping and is a porn star, and that this is a plot with Bunny’s boyfriend and fellow porn star Jackie Treehorn. (Ben Gazarra) Who stole The Dude’s car? Is Bunny really kidnapped?  Who ends up with the million dollar ransom?

This is a very funny movie, the jokes come from the finely drawn characters, and rapid-fire dialogue.  “The Dude” could have been a stereotype. The California slacker stoner has been played by Keanu Reeves and Owen Wilson has made a career out of playing.stoner/slacker dudes, but Bridges plays him so naturally with such ease, that he doesn’t seem so hackneyed. The Goodman character also could have been a stereotype, the psycho Vietnam vet character has been done before as well, but Goodman is clearly having fun, so the audience has fun too.  Speaking of fun, Julianne Moore has plenty of fun with her character, affecting an aristocratic accent, and playing a avant-garde artist type.  This is a difficult comedic role, but Moore plays it with flair.

The Big Lebowski.  Big laughs.