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Saturday, November 22, 2014


The worldwide phenomenon of The Hunger Games continues to set the world on fire with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1, which finds Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in District 13 after she literally shatters the games forever. Under the leadership of President Coin (Julianne Moore) and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss spreads her wings as she fights to save Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and a nation moved by her courage.

Director: Francis Lawrence 

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Julianne Moore, Sam Claflin

Release Date: Nov 21, 2014

Rated PG-13 for some Disturbing Images, Intense Sequences of Violence, Intense Sequences of 

Action and Thematic Material

Runtime: 2 hr. 3 min.

Genres: Action/Adventure


The Hunger Games: MockingJay, Part 1 represents a lot of issues with long running franchises.  It’s overstuffed but undercooked all the way through.  There are plenty of interesting ideas thrown at the wall but none of them are explored fully or expounded upon.  Instead we get a slog of a movie which seems to be treading water more than actually moving the story forward, making the decision to split this finale into 2 parts even more baffling.  Lawrence delivers solid work as usual but she seems slightly bored with the proceedings from time to time as the film moves from creating a revolutionary symbol to stalling another hour before we get to some actual plot momentum.  There are a few set pieces which are worthwhile but mostly it’s a lot of overly serious sadness, mostly because the story type has changed from the first 2 films.  It’s a common issue with franchises like this, the story demand a larger scope which results in a change in the story’s DNA which isn’t always a good thing.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cindy Prascik's Review of Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Dearest Blog, this weekend my cinema unexpectedly offered awards season hopeful Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). I owe them a debt of gratitude for eschewing the usual smalltown "If it's not Transformers, why bother?" mentality and not making me fit in *all* the nominated films in the two weeks leading up to the Oscars!

Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.

The washed-up star of a big Hollywood superhero franchise tries to kickstart his career on Broadway.
Well, dear reader(s), Birdman is the kind of movie that many people may dislike despite it's being well done, and there probably won't be much middle ground: people will love it or they'll hate it. Me, I really, really loved it.

Michael Keaton turns in an extraordinary performance in the lead, simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious and sympathetic and distant and serious and insane. Early goings yet for me to say "All the awards, please!" but this is the kind of work that, even if he ends up not being my guy when the time comes, I won't complain about anything he wins. The supporting cast is similarly terrific, especially Edward Norton and the lovely Emma Stone.

I'll go on record as saying this is the first time I've seen Zach Galafianakis in anything where I didn't want to kill him; he is very good and almost unbelievably not annoying! At a glance, the story sounds like a buzzkill, as "has-been actor" tales rarely end well, but the telling is so entertaining that it doesn't feel that way. Certainly there's a bit of melancholy about the past, but there's also a hopeful note that comes with the having courage to take a chance. There has been much online debate about the movie's ending, and I won't spoil it here, but I will say it's a real conversation starter and--in my opinion--a perfect finish to a film that poses more questions than it answers.

Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) clocks in at 119 minutes, and is rated R for "language throughout, some sexual content, and brief violence."

Birdman is, across the board, one of the best movies I've seen this year, smartly written, beautifully acted, and truly entertaining from start to finish.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) gets eight.

Until next time...

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels reprise their signature roles as Lloyd and Harry in the sequel to the smash hit that took the physical comedy and kicked it in the nuts: Dumb and Dumber To. The original film’s directors, Peter and Bobby Farrelly, take Lloyd and Harry on a road trip to find a child Harry never knew he had and the responsibility neither should ever, ever be given

Director: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly 

Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Kathleen Turner, Rob Riggle, Laurie Holden

Release Date: Nov 14, 2014

Rated: PG-13 for Language, Crude and Sexual Humor, Partial Nudity and Some Drug References 

Runtime: 1 hr. 50 min. 

Genres: Comedy 


The easiest way to start this review is to just get the bad out of the way first.  Dumb and Dumber To is way too long, forced on multiple occasions and it’s plot is an unabashed retread of the original.  Going into this sequel, you have certain expectations, the main one being that you want to laugh.  So does it make you laugh, on certain moments it does, quite a bit.  There are parts where you are doing some serious belly laughing but it’s never maintained and film just stays around way too long for it’s own good.  It’s been a long while since the Farrlly Brothers had a solid film but even at their best their movies were spotty.  To their credit Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are game for the proceedings even if you can tell they are trying to find the characters again during certain parts of the film.  It’s great when they find it and make you laugh at the idiocy on display, I just wish it was more consistent.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Interstellar & Big Hero 6


Dearest Blog, yesterday I set off for the cinema with a chip on my shoulder about excessively-long movies. On the docket: Interstellar (ahem) and Big Hero 6.

Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.

First up, Christopher Nolan's newest epic, Interstellar.

With Earth falling to ruin, a group of scientists heads into space to find mankind some new digs.
My reaction to the announcement of Interstellar's runtime: "Are you %&$#@!& kidding me??" Most movies that exceed two hours don't do much to earn the extra screentime, and I well and truly feared I might be lulled to sleep by three hours of Matthew McConaughey's lazy drawl. I repentantly admit I should have trusted in the Genius of Nolan.

Interstellar is not a perfect movie. It's VERY long and, while it's too complex to say, "Cut that ten-minute car chase and we're good!" a bit of cropping here and there would have served it well. The performances are solid across the board, but three hours of McConaughey IS a lot to take, and I can't remember the last time I wanted to punch a fictional character in the face as much as I did Anne Hathaway's. (I'm not among that curious lot who despises Hathaway; on the contrary, she's a favorite of mine, but this character...not so much). Some dialogue is inexcusably cheesy for a movie that so wants and expects to be taken seriously. The score is strangely and obtrusively loud at times.

The good news is none of that keeps Interstellar from being a very, very good movie that easily holds your attention for the duration. Performances are solid across the board. Hans Zimmer's score is beautiful, despite those few jarring blasts. I suspect those even may be intentional, as they create a stark contrast with the absolute silence that follows. Interstellar boasts a smart, intricate plot that takes many turns I did not expect. The pacing is deliberate--almost a full hour is devoted to the setup--but it doesn't feel slow or even all that long. Finally, Interstellar makes Gravity look like a first-year film-school project; it is absolutely magnificent and should be seen on the biggest screen you can find.

Interstellar clocks in at 169 minutes (you heard me) and is rated PG13 for "some intense perilous action and brief strong language."

Interstellar won't be everyone's cup of tea.

The length may seem not just daunting, but pretentious to some, and the story perhaps too convoluted.

To me, though, it's a stroke of pure cinematic brilliance that has (for the moment, at least) cured me of questioning the wisdom of Christopher Nolan.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, Interstellar gets eight.

Next on the agenda was Disney's animated feature Big Hero 6.

A group of young scientists teams with the world's cuddliest robot to solve a mystery that strikes close to home.

Well, dear reader(s), you know how I'm always saying low expectations are the key to a happy life? Throw that out the window and have the highest expectations you can imagine for Big Hero 6 and you still won't be disappointed. I loved this so much I hardly know where to start, but.......
...I guess we'll start with the obvious. When it comes to animation, the biggest thing for me is always going to be: How good does it look?

Big Hero 6 looks so amazing it jumps right off the screen, and that's just in 2D. In 3D, I daresay it would be a feast for the eyes like no other. The artwork and colors are stunning, and the action sequences are possibly the most eye-catching I've ever seen. Big Hero 6 has plenty of great messages for kids (and adults), but it never feels like one of those Message Movies that beats you over the head with its point. The characters are terrifically diverse; I can't imagine there's a kid anywhere who won't see himself and his own potential in at least one of them.

The storyline is sad at times--though realistically, not morosely, sad--but a hopeful tone runs throughout. Big Hero 6 is smart, interesting, and laugh-out-loud funny, a perfect movie cocktail for children and adults alike. Annnnnnnd...most importantly, Baymax is the cutest animated lead since Nemo. I want one.

Big Hero 6 runs 108 minutes and is rated PG for "action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements."

Big Hero 6 is my favorite animated film of 2014. I liked it even better than the Lego Movie, and it's guaranteed a spot in my year-end top ten.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, Big Hero 6 gets eight and a half.

Until next time...

PS: Ever notice you can always spell "McConaughey" correctly if you only remember there's an "ugh" in the middle?  ;-)

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