Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Movie review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

 As the Panem war escalates, Katniss is once again drawn in as the reluctant leader of the rebellion. Focused on the elimination of President Snow, all Katniss holds dear hangs in the balance.

Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta), Liam Hemsworth (Gale), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch), Donald Sutherland (President Snow), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch), Julianne Moore (Pres. Coin), Willow Shields (Prim), Sam Claflin (Finnick).

This final entry in the franchise finds Katniss once again struggling to balance her popularity against her desire for revenge. Focused on the elimination of President Snow, she largely ignores manipulation by President Coin to use her as fuel for the rebellion, even as those dear to her struggle to survive. While this final entry does answer some questions, we also find a Katniss that seems so focused on her own revenge that the struggles of others are ignored. Add that to the plodding pace of the thin plot and this series fizzles rather than finishes, which feels surprisingly appropriate.

Acting was a bit disappointing in this entry. Lawrence, and most of the cast, felt flat and slightly misfiring. Hutcherson found a bit of depth in this entry which was nice. Harrelson and Hoffman felt hardly used while Sutherland and Moore felt as if they phoned this one in.

Camera work, sets, and backgrounds are decent and consistent with the franchise. CGI and effects remain solid and fairly well done though this entry added nothing new unlike previous entries. Dialogue was a bit dry, clumsy, and slow. Sound and soundtrack are okay.

Given the entertainment value of this entry in the franchise, it was an appropriate time for the series to end. The story is running out of steam, and apparently the actors are as well. Big fans of the books or film series should enjoy this one. Those who have enjoyed the action and surprise of the series may find this entry disappointing.

With substantial violence and gore, this should be fine for teens and above.

Released: 2015
Reviewed: 4.2.18
Star rating: 3 out of 5
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Thrillers

copyright ©2018 Dave Riedel

Monday, April 16, 2018

Movie review: Now You See Me 2

 After being in seclusion for over a year, the Horsemen are drawn from hiding and forced to perform yet another heist by a strange technology tycoon. But can the Horsemen turn the tables once again, exposing the evil tech genius?

Jesse Eisenberg (Atlas), Mark Ruffalo (Rhodes), Woody Harrelson (Merritt/Chase), Dave Franco (Jack), Daniel Radcliffe (Walter), Lizzy Caplan (Lula), Morgan Freeman (Thaddeus Bradley), Michael Caine (Tressler).

Now You See Me 2 is as much a mind bender as the original. The Horsemen never seem to know who is pulling the strings, yet they always seem to be one step ahead in the end, and this film is no different. This time around the crew adds a new Horseman with a fondness for disturbing magic, Lula. With a fast storyline and plenty of action included, the film almost demands your attention if you don't want to get lost and the ending is no exception.

Acting was enjoyable once again with Ruffalo playing a bigger role and managing it quite well. Eisenberg and Franco were solid as always. Harrelson was enjoyable playing himself in a dual role, as was Radcliffe as antagonist. Caplan was a good choice and added nicely. Freeman and Caine delivered as usual.

Camera work, sets, and backgrounds are all well done with an almost larger than life feel. CGI was well integrated throughout with the rain effects being our favorite. Dialogue is fast but reasonably well done. Sound was good while the soundtrack was a bit lacking in this one.

Overall if you enjoyed the first film you will likely enjoy this entry in the franchise. Likewise, you may find yourself losing interest with the storyline reliance on persistent misdirection.

With some violence and foul language, this should be fine for teens and above.

Released: 2016
Reviewed: 3.29.18
Star rating: 3 out of 5
Genre: Comedy, Action, Adventure, Crime Thriller, Heist Films

copyright ©2018 Dave Riedel

Friday, April 13, 2018

Movie review: How the Beatles Changed the World

 A history of The Beatles, and their cultural influence, presented using interviews and archive film footage. The Beatles influenced, and continue to influence, more than music as shown in this documentary.

Tony Bramwell, Robert Christgau, Anthony DeCurtis, Brian Epstein, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, Barry Miles, Bill Harry, Chris Ingham.

How the Beatles Changed the World follows along as The Beatles rise in popularity, linking their music to events at the time. Where the documentary goes a bit off-track is with a persistent focus on The Beatles being the driving force behind several social movements and the creation of other bands. Despite this apparent focus the documentary is interesting and provides a good start to understanding the history of the band.

Acting was minimal as the documentary uses interviews and archive film footage.

Technical work was good with nice editing of old film. Interviews were interesting mainly because they were with people who knew or followed The Beatles closely. Sound and soundtrack are good, though some more Beatles music would have been nice.

Overall How the Beatles Changed the World is a nice entry level documentary on the history of The Beatles. Some may take issue with the obvious bias in the film, but the band history felt fairly accurate.

Not much here to limit audience age. Teens and above should be fine with this one.

Released: 2017
Reviewed: 3.27.18
Star rating: 3 out of 5
Genre: Documentary, Music, History, Social & Cultural Documentaries

copyright ©2018 Dave Riedel

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Movie review: A Perfect Day

 When a corpse is thrown down a well, contaminating a village water supply, three aid workers set out on removal duty. But the ongoing Yugoslav War might have other plans for them.

Benicio Del Toro (Mambru), Tim Robbins (B), Olga Kurylenko (Katya), Melanie Thierry (Sophie), Fedja Stukan (Damir), Eldar Residovic (Nikola), Sergi Lopez (Goyo), Ivan Brkic (Store Owner).

A Perfect Day begins well enough; a body has been found in a well, contaminating a village water supply, and three aid workers begin the process of removal. From there things go south when the rope they are using breaks and finding a new one brings many new adventures. Along the way there is some dark humor, drama, and a few thrills. Though not fast moving, the film holds interest fairly well with sub-plots and unexpected turns.

Acting was good with Del Toro delivering nicely and working well with others. Robbins was over the top, but it worked, bringing some comedy to the film. Thierry was solid and fit well with Del Toro and Robbins. Stukan, Residovic, Kurylenko and the remainder of the cast were interesting if not experienced.

Camera work, sets, and backgrounds are good with a solid, realistic feel better than many international films. Action scenes were mild but fitting with good detail. Dialogue is good though a few accents were challenging. Pay attention to catch the bits of dark humor. Sound and soundtrack are very good with modern, popular tracks that fit the film well.

This one is unusual enough it probably won't appeal to everyone. Those who enjoy very subtle dark humor will probably enjoy this the most, followed closely by those who like unusual war dramas.

With some disturbing images of dead bodies and a fair amount of foul language, save this one for older teens and above.

Released: 2015
Reviewed: 3.27.18
Star rating: 3 out of 5
Genre: Comedy, War, Drama, Dark Comedy, International Comedy

copyright ©2018 Dave Riedel

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