Posts Tagged ‘woody harrelson’

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.

out of the furnace

Russell Baze (Christian Bale) is a steelworker, working hard to keep his family together.  His father (Bingo O’Malley) is dying.  Russell’s brother, Rodney (Casey Affleck) is a soldier, serving his fourth tour in Iraq, Rodney is in debt to local loanshark John Petty (William Dafoe).  Russell has a difficult life, but finds solace with his schoolteacher girlfriend, Lena Taylor. (Zoe Saldana) When driving home drunk one day, Russell runs into a car, and kills a child.

After serving his time in prison, his life changes dramatically, his father is dead, his girlfriend has left him, and his brother is back from Iraq, yearning to be a streetfighter with the help of John Petty.  John wants Rodney to throw his first fight because Rodney owes John money, and John owes money to local drug dealer Harlan De Groat (Woody Harrelson)  Russell doesn’t want Rodney to get involved with John or Harlan and wants Rodney to work at the steel mill like he does.  Does Rodney start street fighting against his brother’s wishes?

This is an excellent movie.  The exposition takes a while to unwind, but once the characters are fully developed, the viewer wants to see what happens to each character.  The ending is somewhat formulaic, but even the ending keeps the viewer guessing, because of a scene that preceded it.

The acting is what separates this movie from most gritty crime dramas.  Christian Bale has to be one of the best actors in Hollywood, whatever he does he infuses the role with such emotion, that the viewer cant help but get lost in the character.  The viewer can’t help but empathize with this character, he’s trying to keep his splintering family together, bur one bad break and he ends up in jail, and loses almost everything.  It is a fine, understated performance of a man trying to play by the rules.  Woody Harrelson turns in another riveting performance as sadistic SOB Harlan De Groat.  All that needs to be said about Harlan is said in the first scene.  Casey Affleck also gives a fine performance as a vet suffering from PTSD, looking for an outlet for his rage.  There are also fine performances in smaller roles by Zoe Saldana and Forest Whitaker.  The ensemble cast enhances the movie greatly.

The direction is notable, there are shots from interesting angles, and utilizing the lighting whenever possible.  It uses the sparse landscape of rural Pennsylvania to illustrate the difficulty of life there, and uses the steel mill itself as an interesting backdrop.

Out of the Furnace.  Burning With Intensity.

  1. true detective

Episode 1: The Long, Bright Dark

Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and  Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) are detectives and former partners being debriefed about a murder case they worked on together 17 years earlier.

I must say, even after only 1 episode, I am hooked.  The chemistry between McConaughey and Harrelson is incredible.  It’s the antithesis of a buddy movie, Hart can’t stand Cohle, and the feeling is visceral.  Cohle is kind of an odd bird, and Hart is more by the book.  In the hands of less talented actors, this might have been a cliché, but not with these two.  The friction between the partners is used for both comedic and dramatic purposes .  There is nudity, and it is disturbing, so keep the kiddies away. As for me, I can’t wait for the next episode.

Episode 2: Seeing Things

Cohle and Hart continue to investigate the murder of a prostitute as the pressure on the two of them mounts.  The police chief wants to see tangible results or he vows to replace him.  The pressure at home mounts on Hart, as he spends an interminably long day with his father-in-law.  A church flyer in the prostitute’s possesion leads them to a burned out church, but what do they find there?

The tension in this show is so palpable, that it can’t help but boil over.  If I didn’t’ know that McConaughey and Harrelson were such good actors, I’d really think they hate each other.  They’re going either going to take a piece out of each other, or the people that they interrogate, or both.  And then each episode ends with a cliffhanger, and that makes it like those old time radio or tv serials.  I can’t wait for the next episode.

Episode 3:  The Locked Room

Cohle and Hart investigate the congregants of the burned down church, after interrogating a suspect, they move on to an identification of a tall, scarred man.  The tension at home between Hart and his wife is getting unbearable, and it manifests itself in strange ways. The pair are still being threatened with being replaced by a task force, but then tangible evidence linking a tall, scarred man to more than one of the victims, but who is Reggie Ledoux?  (Charles Halford)

The storyline is getting a bit redundant, the detectives are about to be removed from the investigation, they find a clue or a suspect, and they’re off to the races.   It doesn’t matter that the storyline is predictable, the characters are so interesting, that despite their idiosyncrasies, the partners still display a great deal of camaraderie, because they are learning to trust each other, and they have doubts within themselves, because they are deeply flawed characters.  And playing these characters expertly, are Harrelson and McConaughey, self-confident one minute, wracked with doubt the next, this show is an emotional rollercoaster.  And Michelle Monoghan  is part of that roller coaster, she loves her husband but doesn’t trust him.  And that’s what makes the show compelling, the three main characters and the actors playing them.

Episode 4:  Who Goes There?

Cohle and Hart have their prime suspect, Reggie Ledoux.  Ledoux cooks methamphetamine for a biker gang.  In order to get to Ledoux, Cohle has to go undercover as a drug dealer.  Hart would rather immerse himself in work than face his home life.  Cohle gets caught in a shootout between the biker gang, the cops in Texas, and a gang of drug dealers who the biker gang was trying to rob.  Does Cohle get out?

This is a really interesting episode, because you see both detectives’ flaws as clear as day, Hart seems like he’s coming unhinged at one point, and Cohle seems entirely too comfortable in his undercover role.  But their shortcomings as human beings make them better cops.  It’s almost as if police work is escapism for them, they can’t deal with their day to day life, so they work at the only thing they’re good at, solving this case.  This episode is really exciting too, because all hell breaks loose around Cohle, and the viewer doesn’t really know what will happen next.  The direction is amazing, the last shot is six minutes of one continuous shot, with no edits in it.  Amazing, edge of your seat viewing.

Episode 5:  The Secret Fate of All Life

Cohle and Hart hunt Ledoux down to a farmhouse where he is holding two kids hostage, and Hart kills Ledoux.  They believe the case is closed.  But the detectives investigating the case now, Detectives Papania (Tory Kittles) and Gilbaugh  (Michael Potts) believe this case is very much open.  In fact, they have a new suspect.

I like this show, but I don’t like the turn it’s taking, I can only hope that the writer is only using this as misdirection, to lead the audience one way, while building to a different ending.

Episode 6:  Haunted Houses

Cohle is convinced that the serial murders are being done by more than one man, towards that end he tries to open up cold cases, interviews the little girl he rescued in 1995 who is now in a nearly catatonic state, and interviews a prominent pastor in town.  But then a series of events occur that not only brings Cohle’s secret investigation to a halt, it makes him quit the force.

Sometimes writers do things for dramatic effect, but this time I think the writers went too far with this episode.  I will not say what happened, but it was predictable and I was hoping that it wouldn’t happen, but it did.  And it is disappointing.

Episode 7:  After You’re Gone

After 10 years apart, the detectives reconcile to track down the killer/killers of a girl named Fontenot. Hart interrogates a Sheriff named Steve Geraci (Michael Harney) who isn’t very forthcoming.  Papania and Gilbough go looking for the church that Hart and Cohle found

The show got on track this week.  The detectives reconciled, but it was not an easy reconciliation, there’s still a seething hatred of each other just below the surface, but above all they want to solve this case.  That supersedes everything.  The acting is great, the characters are great.  I can’t wait for the last episode.  I hope there is a season 2.

Episode 8: Form and Void

Following clues from their interrogation of Steve Geraci, and clues from evidence Cohle and Hart deduce for themselves, the finally find their man, so who is it?  And why did so many people try to cover it up?

After such a great buildup, there are going to be two camps of people, one who says the ending was perfect and everything fit, and people like me who say the who and the why of the coverup wasn’t nearly as satisfying as it should have been.  What’s more, the last episode felt rushed, like they solved a year’s worth of clues in one episode.  I am disappointed.  The acting is still great, the chemistry flawless, but the ending was a letdown.

now-you-see-me

J Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) is a close up magician who specializes in card tricks.  Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) is a mentalist, who reads minds. Hensley Reeves (Isla Fisher) is a Houdini-esque escape artist, and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) who specializes in picking locks, and picking pockets. The magicians are summoned to an apartment in New York where they are shown an innovative magic show by a mysterious magician named Shrike.  The magic show is bankrolled by a wealthy benefactor named Arthur Tressler. (Michael Caine) Atlas and company take the show to Las Vegas, call themselves the Four Horsemen, and unveil their show. The highlight of the show is using an audience member to steal 3 million Euros from a French bank, which they do flawlessly.  FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and French Interpol agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent) arrest the Four Horsemen, but they don’t have enough evidence to keep them in prison, so they are released.

Rhodes finds magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) to help bring the Four Horsemen down, but far from being down, they plan another elaborate trick in which in New Orleans they double-cross their benefactor, Tressler, and give his millions to audience members who were ripped off by Tressler’s insurance company.  Now Tressler, the FBI and Interpol are after The Four Horseman, but can anyone catch them before the pull off their next heist?  And who is Shrike, the mysterious magician they work for?

I like this movie, it’s not very profound, the magic may or may not be authentic, but it’s just a fun popcorn movie.  The story is essentially a Robin Hood theme, steal from the rich give to the poor theme.  The idea of giving money to Katrina victims from a millionaire who withheld money from those same victims strikes an especially populist theme.  Having Morgan Freeman explain the magic is kind of dumb, and there is a plot twist that is unnecessary, but on the whole Now You See Me is an enjoyable film.

The reason why this is a fun film to watch is the excellent cast.  Jesse Eisenberg is good at playing the smartest guy in the room as he did in the Social Network.  Woody Harrelson is great in everything he does, he can be funny or intense but plays it for laughs this time.  Isla Fisher is an actress who is just enjoyable to watch, she just seems to enjoy what she’s doing and projects her happiness to the audience.  The only exception to the good cast is Mark Ruffalo, he is just a milquetoast actor sleepwalking through another role, I wish they had cast another actor in this pivotal role.  Melanie Laurent has a thick French accent, which hinders her line delivery, but she tries to build chemistry with Ruffalo.

The writing is good for an action film, there are times when it reverts to a simple car chase movie, and they could have chopped the last ten minutes from the movie, but those are minor flaws.  The direction keeps the action going at a brisk pace.

Now You See Me.  See it.

Seven-psychopaths

Marty (Colin Farrell) is a screenwriter who has writer’s block, he’s got the title written, Seven Psychopaths, and nothing else.  Marty’s friend, Billy, (Sam Rockwell) is anxious to help him write the screenplay.  Billy and his assistant, Hans  (Christopher Walken) kidnap dogs and then bring them back to unsuspecting owners for a reward, but the latest dog they kidnap brings them trouble.  The Shih Tzu belongs to a mob boss named Charlie, (Woody Harrelson) and this mob boss loves his dog, enough to kill for it.  To make matters more hectic for Marty, Billy puts an ad in the paper for psychopaths and their stories, for source material.  Marty gets some source material, but finds most of the psychopaths closer to home.  Does Charlie catch up to Billy and Hans?  Does Marty and Billy finish the screenplay?

I did not like Seven Psychopaths.  Even at its best, which is a satire of gangster-type movies, it is extremely derivative of the king of the genre, Quentin Tarentino.   Tarentino’s movies are hyper-violent blood-soaked revenge fantasies, but they always seem to make me laugh.  Seven Psychopaths is like a pale impression of a Tarentino movie, cool music, lots of foul language, bushel-baskets of bloody violence.  But it seems to be like Tarentino’s little brother, in movie terms, everyone associated with the movie is trying a little too hard, the writer/director, and the actors.  They are all trying a little too hard to make this movie funny.  Sometimes the effort pays off, more times than not, it doesn’t.  Sometimes the subplots, are more interesting than the main plot, and the movie has way too many characters, and some weird interrelationships. I have to say, I did like the ending, which I did not expect, because it came out of left field, but it was a nice way to end the movie.

The acting is ok  Colin Farrell is playing an Irish screenwriter, which is not much of a stretch for him, because he’s Irish and he’s an actor.  He plays a straight man, he’s a pacifist, and he’s reacting to the craziness surrounding him.  Christopher Walken has the same delivery in every movie and it’s almost become self-parody.  I will not give away too much about Walken’s character, but suffice to say it is hard to believe that he’s this type of character. Sam Rockwell has a penchant for overacting, and he does not disappoint in this movie, he tries really hard to steal every scene in the movie, and after two hours, the over the top delivery gets tiresome.  Woody Harrelson is good as usual, he plays a cool, laid-back-killer, whose detachment makes the performance

The direction shows a few flourishes, and the pacing is slow, so the direction is nothing noticeable, unlike Tarantino.  The writing is flawed, sometimes very good, sometimes very bad, marred by loads of violence, and bad language and a little nudity, all become substitutes for actual plot, which is never a good idea.

With graphic language and violence and some nudity, this movie is not a good idea for kids.  With a title like Seven Psychopaths did you really expect it to be a family film?

Seven Psychopaths.  Either crazy good or crazy bad, not enough of either.

zombieland

Columbus (Eisenberg) is a happy little shut-in nerd playing his Worlds of Warcraft, and drinking his Mountain Dew Code Red, eating his Golden Grahams, no girlfriend, no prospects of one, until a neighbor named “406” (Amber Heard)  comes to him for help.  A homeless man tried to bite her, could he help her?  Soon, Columbus discovers 406 is a zombie, and kills her.  A variation off the mad cow virus is turning people into zombies. Two months later Columbus has become one of the best zombie hunters in Zombieland, by following 32 rules, among them stay in shape, check the back seat, buckle your safety belts, and above all, don’t be a hero.

On his way to Columbus Ohio, Columbus meets Tallahassee (Harrelson) a guy with seemingly nothing left to lose and even less to live for.  He loves his puppy, which he lost, he loves Twinkies and he occasionally likes breaking stuff once in a while.  Tallahassee will take Columbus to Ohio and no further.  But as luck would have it, the nerd and the cool guy meet two sisters.  Wichita (Emma Stone) and her 12-year old sister Little Rock (Breslin) who want to go to Pacific Playland, an amusement park where the rumor goes, there are no zombies.  Columbus is taken by Wichita’s dark good looks, what he doesn’t realize is that Wichita and Little Rock are con-artists, who take Columbus and Tallahassee’s Escalade, and their ammo and scram.  No worries, Tallahassee finds a brand new Hummer , which Wichita and Little Rock steal from them again,  only this time they let them stay in the car. Columbus decides to go to California with Wichita, after he finds out that Columbus Ohio is a burned out husk, and because he is starting to have a thing for Wichita.  What do the four find in California?  Do the four even make it that far?

This is a very cool, very hip, very funny, zombie movie.  Sure there are details that drive the viewer crazy, if the meat is contaminated, what do they eat? Where do they get their endless supply of ammo?  Why do they find the two cars in the entire country that work?  How do they stay looking so clean if they don’t bathe?  But forget logic, this is a fun monster flick.  Woody Harrelson is one of the best, most underrated actors in America; he can make you laugh or cry.  Eisenberg is a less irritating version of Michael Cera.   Emma Stone is interesting as the brooding goth con-artist, and Breslin shatters her little girl image for good by shooting guns, and conning people.  This is just an enjoyable movie.  So enjoy it.

Zombieland:  The undead tickle your funnybone, while gnawing on it.