June 21, 2016

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part II (2015)

Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, et al

Don't worry, I'm not going to take this opportunity to rant (once again) about unnecessarily splitting the finale of movie franchises into multiple films. Nor am I going to rant (once again) about the casting of Josh Hutcherson as Peeta. That ship has sailed.

Instead, I want to focus on how little actually happened in this movie. (What do you know, I guess it will be about it being split into two movies.) While I surprisingly enjoyed the first half of Mockingjay, this second installment just didn't have enough left. Sure, it shows the conclusion of the entire franchise and we finally get an answer to the question of whether Katniss will choose mini-Peeta and his poorly bleached hair or Gale and his sudden decline in ethics, but it's slow. Even with the occasional explosion.

Also, I realize it's a sequel, and the second half of a book, but there's not much to differentiate it from Part 1. And the movie begins exactly where Part 1 left off with no recap of any kind, so it's basically like one long ass movie. Except that they were released a year apart. So yeah, I'm still not over the decision to split it up.

I read the books forever ago, so it's difficult to remember, but I recall Mockingjay to be much more strategic and political than this movie portrays. It shows flashes of manipulation by several key people, but it's so subtle I wonder if I would have missed it entirely if I didn't already know what happened. Instead, the majority of the movie played out like a very very tamed down version of The Hurt Locker.

In the search for positive take aways, however, I've realized that Liam Hemsworth is more attractive than I initially gave him credit for. So there's that. I'm not rushing out to rent The Last Song or anything, but I'm happy there's one more attractive face in Hollywood I can't escape anyway. Then again, he might have just seemed good looking in comparison to Josh Hutcherson.

And the complaint comes full circle.

Final word: I'm relieved the trilogy is over.

June 15, 2016

Dolphin Tale 2 (2014)

Harry Connick Jr, Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman

There are some real downsides to having kids. Beyond the usual complaints of sleep deprivation and the annoying-ness of nonstop whining and general neediness, there comes a day when your kids are old enough to watch movies. And in an attempt to share meaningful experiences and rituals or whatever, you establish a Friday Night Movie tradition, whereby you watch a previously unseen movie together. Only your kids want to weigh in on the movie decision, which I guess should be a good thing because it means they're invested in the activity, and they choose Dolphin Tale 2. Without ever having even seen Dolphin Tale, the original, because there is no way you would ever choose to sit through that movie. But you love your kids, I suppose, so you acquiesce.

Which brings me to this review.

I hate sequels. This is a well known fact. I had no idea how much less pleasurable a sequel is when you have never seen the first movie. Not only do you have to play catch up on the plot, but there is zero emotional investment in the characters. Do I care about Winter, the handicapped bottle nosed dolphin? Nope. Which, of course, poses a slight problem as the movie is mostly about her. Again.

Not to say I don't care about sea creatures--I do. And dolphins are impossibly adorable. But I just don't care for movies about animals. At least, not where the animal is really the main character. Even more so if there is a voiceover for the animal (which, thankfully, is not the case here). I know Winter is a real dolphin and all and her story is pretty cool. I just don't want to watch a movie about it.

There are other things going on in the story. There's an awkward, not totally realized love story between two unattractive teens who I assume are from the first movie (only further convincing me never to watch it). There's high drama surrounding the USDA's regulations surrounding dolphin captivity. And there are enough cameos from Morgan Freeman to wonder if he personally knows these dolphins or if someone blackmailed him to be in this movie.

I will say that I am impressed at the number of factual details the movie got right, considering how fast and loose writers play it with the words "based on a true story." The fact that there was (debatably) enough material from this aquarium to warrant a second movie is impressive. And I know how meaningful the first movie was to the disabled community--they don't get a whole lot of visibility in Hollywood. But I still can't help but feel like I wasted a Friday night.

Final word: Don't have kids. See above for reasoning.

June 12, 2016

Third Annual Snarky Awards

Four years of glorious blogging behind me, it's time to hand out my annual Snarky Awards, for the most offensive movies I've watched in the past 12 months. I could do them according to the calendar year, but what can I say, I'm a rebel.

This gif needs to live on in perpetuity

And in honor of Bridget Jones 3 coming out soon, I've created a brand new award for the one and only Hugh Grant.

The Hugh Grant Award 

for yet another identical role for an actor who seems to lack range

Dev Patel, Chappie

The Katherine Heigl Award 

for the actor who attempted to single-handedly ruin a movie 

Jada Pinkett Smith, Magic Mike XXL

The New Year's Eve Award 

for the worst ensemble cast movie

Jersey Boys

The Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen Straight-to-DVD Award 

for the worst movie you've never heard of

Accidental Love

And of course,

The White House Down Award

for the movie so terrible it was hilarious

Fifty Shades of Grey

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments! And if you have category recommendations for next year, send them to me at TheSnarkyReviewer [at] gmail [dot] com.

June 3, 2016

The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story [TV mini-series] (2016)

Cuba Gooding Jr., Sarah Paulson, John Travolta, et al

Everyone remembers the OJ trial. Everyone in the US, anyway. I was a kid--a kid who didn't even watch football--and I clearly remember where I was and what I was doing when the Bronco chase happened. It was a defining moment in American history. I just have a better understanding and appreciation of it all now.

This 10-part mini-series tackles the entire ordeal from the initial discovery of the bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman through the aftermath of the trial verdict. It spares no one from scrutiny and features every randomly famous person they could cast, including cameo appearances from Jordana Brewster as Nicole's sister and Selma Blair as Kris Jenner. Most everyone is well cast, with the glaring exception of Cuba Gooding Jr as OJ himself. I don't know what it is, but he just doesn't embody OJ. At. All. It's almost as distracting as the melting puddle formerly known as John Travolta's face.

It's an interesting point is history to study, especially as someone who is too young to remember the LA race riots of 1992 after the beating of Rodney King. But with the current backlash against the police for yet again targeting men of color, this 20+ year old case somehow seems more relevant than ever. So disregarding the media circus and the high profile names surrounding this case, studying the details of it can shed a great deal of light on people's attitudes in our present political climate.

There are plenty of reviews out there that break down each episode (I know, I read them frantically as I watched to compare any discrepancies), so I really just want to highlight the good and bad details running throughout.

Good: casting, especially Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark. Her hair is hideous and her acting overcomes it. She actually makes you feel sympathetic for Marcia, watching her completely botch the biggest case of the century.
Bad: The inclusion of the Kardashian kids. I get that Robert Kardashian was a part of the legal defense team, but why did his kids need to appear in 4 episodes? They are so annoying I hate even child actors pretending to be them from 20 years ago.

Good: The Dateline-esque tug of war between making you switch your loyalties between the prosecution and the defense. It really shows the humanity of each person involved with the case and plays on people's natural sympathetic tendencies to side with whomever seems to be getting the raw deal at that moment.
Bad: Most of the material comes from one source, so there are moments and conversations that seem fabricated or at the very least, over dramatized. I know it's a TV miniseries, but for one that is so shockingly accurate, these little details stick out more than usual.

Good: Highlighting the undercurrent of racial tensions in the country at the time through the lens of this particular case. It is relatable in a Straight Outta Compton way for people who may not listen to rap.
Bad: I don't actually have any more negatives to highlight. It's that good. Then again, I am a Law & Order addict.

But 7.7 million Americans can't be wrong, can they? ;)

Final word: It will frustrate you (or elate you, depending on your position) as much as the original OJ trial did. If you never watched it, here is a more entertaining version of it.