If you caught my last installment of mini movie reviews, you already know a bit about my movie-going habits. (If not, click here.) If you’re looking for things to Netflix in the coming months, hoping for a couple of decent RedBox rentals, or if you’re just wondering if The Force Awakens is worth all that hype, check out my next batch of reviews below.
MOCKINGJAY PART 2 | 11/20/15
Key Players: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
This was inevitable, as I’ve been following the Games since their first trek to the big screen in 2012. I was a huge fan of the books and eager to see them come to life on the silver screen. The first film was a masterpiece, beautifully true to the book, and wonderfully casted. Same for Catching Fire, my favorite of the three. Mockingjay Part 1 was plodding and slow and started to falter, however, as I sort of expected. Mockingjay is admittedly my least favorite book in the literary trilogy turned film tetralogy, as I felt the climax was glossed over and wrapped up far too lazily to give justice to the story as a whole. I wondered if they would be able to rectify that in the film version.
So, my sister and I continued our tradition of heading to the theater on her first night home for her Thanksgiving break from college and went to witness the “epic conclusion” of the saga that catapulted J.Law into superstardom. It just didn’t feel so epic. It felt harried and disorganized, plotless and tired. Jennifer lacked the conviction and determination that Katniss displayed so indignantly in the first installment. It was, by most counts, a disappointment … but one you have to see to give yourself closure.
See it? If successfully overthrowing corrupt government appeals to you or if you’ve ever wanted to share a pizza and a bottle of wine with Jen. (Who hasn’t, amirite?)
THE NIGHT BEFORE | 11/20/15
Key Players: Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie
This looked juuuust dumb enough to be funny. And it was, but just barely. I went by myself hoping for a few good laughs (but mostly because I adore JGL) and found a stereotypical plot one might expect when viewing anything where Rogen is a lead actor. The supposed-to-be-funniest scene featured his character doped up on a stocking’s worth of drugs and freaking out in the middle of Christmas Eve mass.
The premise—three friends who are getting a little too old for this stuff vow to bring an epic end to their Night Before (Christmas) routine of all-night partying before Santa’s arrival—is weak as hell and Entertainment Weekly managed to sum it up in a chestnut shell: “A silly, stoned Turducken of a movie, stuffed with scattershot bro jokes and stacked with so many cameos (Mindy Kaling, Miley Cyrus, Tracy Jordan, Lizzy Caplan, Ilana Glazer, James Franco’s penis) that there’s hardly room for the main stars to do more than race from scene to scene in a blur of reindeer sweaters, wacky slapstick, and weed smoke.”
See it? Only if you’re really, really bored. Or high.
VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN | 11/25/15
Key Players: James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe
This looked interesting enough for a solo Sunday evening, so I went. If the leads were lesser liked actors, I probably would’ve skipped it, but I love Dan from his Potter days and I would seriously sit and listen to James do a dramatic reading of an encyclopedia. I know there have been a thousand and one variations of the Frankenstein story, but this one promised to tackle a different angle, that of the mad scientist’s seen-but-seldom-heard assistant, Igor. The build-up was rather fascinating, as they told the tale of Igor’s beginnings as a nameless freak show attraction and slowly unraveled the threads of Victor’s obsessive need to create life from death (and why). But the climax—the creation of “the monster”—fell so tragically flat that it practically upended the entire thing.
It received middling reviews (only a C+ from my Bible, Entertainment Weekly) most likely for this reason. Igor’s sentiment that people won’t remember Frankenstein the man, only the monster, is sadly spot-on and yet, it was hard to see the connections between the story being told and the infamous legend that’s become so prevalent in today’s pop culture. But I suppose that’s what was supposed to make it different?
See it? If you’re a fan of the stars, monsters, or origin stories.
SISTERS | 12/18/15
Key Players: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler
I saw this, predictably, with my sister when she got home from college for her winter break. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Fey-Poehler comedy duo, as I don’t watch SNL and have never really followed their careers. Mean Girls is a classic, but I tend to not like their brand of humor. I recently binge-watched Parks & Rec and was sort of indifferent about it, whereas I know there are people who positively love it.
This was decent, however. The plot is basically one big party and the dialogue was biting and hilarious. I think they could’ve done better with casting a cuter guy as the romantic interest for Poehler and they severely under-utilized their friends’ cameos (I was hoping to see way more of Kate McKinnon). The climactic “problem” was a bit of a contrived plot point and the two sisters were, predictably, supposed to be polar opposites of each other—but for all of the trite details, the meat of the movie was actually a lot of fun.
See it? If you’re fans of Fey, Poehler, other SNLers, or just watching a bunch of middle-aged has-beens get rip-roaring drunk.
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS | 12/18/15
Key Players: Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver
Saved the best for last! I, like apparently everyone else on the planet, couldn’t wait to see the seventh installment of this mega franchise. Considering I didn’t even exist yet at the time Luke Skywalker was first introduced, I had my first experience with George Lucas’ galaxy far far away in middle school. My mother, always trying to convince me to watch old “classics,” plopped me in front of A New Hope one night. I fell in love, completed the trilogy, and made my best friend down the street watch them too. She joined me in a new obsession—we were just two New Jersey 7th graders suddenly infatuated with a boy played by an actor who was now 50 years old in real life. We even had a sleepover specifically so we could watch the entire trilogy—all 6.5 hours—in one night together, complete with chips and ice cream and a whole plethora of junk to keep us up later than we’d ever been allowed before.
All of this is to illustrate a rather simple fact—yes, I am a Star Wars fan. I’m not new to this space spectacle and I was genuinely excited, though admittedly a bit apprehensive, to see a new chapter with new faces reawaken our love for the saga.
And that’s exactly what director J.J. Abrams did. There are a lot of parallels between episodes 4 and 7, but they were done smartly and tastefully. Boss man Joe Korba described it best, saying he revamped enough of the story to lure in a brand new audience while reminding fans of the originals what they loved most about the story that ended 32 years ago. It felt like we were truly starting a new journey while also experiencing an insane nostalgia fix—anyone else get chills at the first appearance of the opening crawl or maybe even a little teary-eyed at Han and Chewie’s iconic entrance? No? Just me? Liars.
I could probably write an entire column on this movie alone, from the new characters played by incredible mostly-unknown-until-now actors, the special effects, the subtle choices in design and plot—but I’ll refrain from doing that here. Moral of the story is … IT WAS GOOD.
See it? Duh. New fans or old, you’ll probably love it.