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Review: mother!

This is without doubt the most divisive movie to come out in a long time. People either hate it or love it, with very few people on the fence about it. I make it a point not to read reviews before I go to see a film I’m planning to cover, but the headlines screaming about mother! (not to be confused with one of my favorite Korean films called Mother sans exclamation point) couldn’t be ignored. It got an F from viewer-polled Cinemascore, but earned raves from some well-known critics. The New York Times even posted an article titled, “Hating ‘Mother!’: Readers Speak Out.” And after finally seeing it for myself, I understand both sides of the argument, but come down on the WTF#?! side.

Passengers

Passengers is basically Castaway in space – with a bit of Gravity and The Martian thrown into the mix. Only it’s not as good as the aforementioned titles, mostly because it lacks tension and drama. Even the sexual tension between the attractive main characters is dispensed of rather quickly, if ya know what I mean.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part Two

I had to re-read my review – from exactly one year ago – of Mockingjay – Part One to reaffirm what I already knew: Mockingjay, Part Two is definitely my least favorite of the four-movie franchise. Not surprising, considering “Mockingjay” was my least favorite of the best-selling “Hunger Games” trilogy by Suzanne Collins and never should have been split into two movies. It just doubled the disappointment. That’s not to say fans of the book and the movies shouldn’t see Mockingjay, Part Two. OF COURSE they should. You need the closure… that final cinematic salute to symbolic rebel leader Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), her rival love interests Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), and the whole nation of Panem. One last chance to declare, “May the odds be ever in your favor!”

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Hollywood can be so cruel. Splitting the third and final book of The Hunger Games trilogy into two movies feels so… unnecessary. Lucrative, in a “hey, Harry Potter and Twilight got away with it” kind of way. But still, totally unnecessary. Thus Mockingjay – Part 1 is a good movie that could have been great. It’s a means to an end – and that means fans of the franchise will (and should) see it despite my frustrations with a narrative cut short. Then – come next year – we will all surely see it again, as part of a movie marathon, when Mockingjay – Part 2 bows in theaters. Just in time for Thanksgiving 2015! May the odds of remembering what happened in the books – and the first three movies – be ever in our favor.

Mockingjay – Part 1 finds our reluctant heroine Katniss Everdeen (still played brilliantly by Jennifer Lawrence) waking up in the rebel safe haven of District 13 after having put a fork (okay, an arrow) into the craziness that was the Hunger Games – where kid ‘tributes’ from the districts of Panem had been forced to fight to the death as part of some annual penance devised by the autocratic Capitol. Why? It’s complicated. If you really care to know, read the books. See the movies.

X-men: Days of Future Past

I will admit up front, I haven’t seen any of the other X-men flicks. But the good news is that this one stands alone and begs me to watch the others to see what I was missing. In Days of Future Past, Wolverine is sent back in time to 1973, so the characters that populate this series are youngsters and their relationships with one another are not yet certain, which makes for a great introduction to the mutant clan. And it is a LOT of fun with a fabulously yummy cast too boot. Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy — what could be wrong with that? And Jennifer Lawrence proves once again that she is a force to be reckoned with.

American Hustle

“Some of this actually happened.” With that, American Hustle proceeds to take a fair amount of creative license to create a really good movie. The story is loosely based on the FBI corruption sting of the 1970s code-named ABSCAM. It features a schlumpy but successful con man named Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale with a paunch and a comb-over) who, along with his smart and seductive partner Sydney (Amy Adams) is forced to work for a wacky FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) who will let them off the hook, if they help him catch some bigger fish.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Catching Fire is both satisfying and frustrating in that it definitely leaves you hungry for more. Sadly, the final installment of the Hunger Games trilogy won’t be dished out for a while, and even worse, it’ll be broken up into TWO additional flicks! As sequels go, Catching Fire is about as good as it gets. The characters, old and new, are well-drawn and well acted. There’s humor, horror, anticipation, allegory and dread as our heroine, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is forced back onto the battlefield for another fight to the death, along with her Hunger Games co-victor and fellow tribute Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). If none of that makes any sense, you’re probably going to skip the movie anyway. So cruise around the Chickflix site for some other cinematic options! For the rest of you, here’s all you need to know as Catching Fire sets the box office ablaze:

Silver Linings Playbook

Lots of hype surrounds Silver Linings Playbook and I’m not sure I buy into the Best Picture scenario, but as rom-dramedies go, there are not a lot of comparable films. At the center is bipolar Pat (Bradley Cooper), just released after 8 months from the loony bin, where he made a plea bargain to go instead of jail for assaulting the man he found bonking his wife Nikki in the shower. Pat comes to stay with his parents because his (ex)wife sold their house and has a restraining order out against him, that and he has no job and he’s crazy! And yet, in his delusional state, he is certain that he is going to get back together with his wife now. And to that end he agrees to have dinner at old friend Ronnie’s, whose wife Veronica (Julia Stiles) is BFFs with Nikki, expecting that she will tell her how much better he is, and he will welcomed back with open arms. At that dinner, he meets Veronica’s sister, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who has recently lost her husband and is clearly on an equal plane of crazy.

The Hunger Games

May the odds be ever in your favor. Odds are, if that means anything to you at all, then this review is totally irrelevant – you’re going to see The Hunger Games. As well you should. It’s good. It’s not “oh my gosh – this is, like, the best movie ever” good. But it does serve the book and its fans quite well. In case you’re unfamiliar, the movie is based on the first book of a young-adult, adventure science fiction trilogy by Suzanne Collins. That means we can expect at least two (or if the studios take a page from Potter and Twilight, at least three) more installments of what’s sure to be a gazillion-dollar franchise.

The premise is admittedly bizarre. Every year, a teenage boy and girl from the 12 districts of Panem are sent to the Capitol to compete in a nationally televised, fight-to-the-death competition known as The Hunger Games. The Games were created as punishment for an uprising against the Capital decades earlier – and perpetuated as a way to keep the districts in line. Think of the 12 Districts as home to the 99 percent. The Capitol houses the 1 percent.

The Games’ participants, known as Tributes, must fight one another until one survivor remains. And just like Texas with the Miss America pageant, some tributes are better prepped than others for the competition.

Like Crazy

I wasn’t crazy for Like Crazy like a lot of people seem to be. Don’t get me wrong. I liked it. I just didn’t love it. Maybe it’s because I’m old(ish) and jaded and have always been more of a realist than a romantic, but this movie just didn’t resonate with me. Yes, the performances are excellent from both Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones, who won a best actress award at Sundance for her role. And the director, Drake Doremus, does a good job of conveying how all consuming first love can be with a lot of tight close-ups of the young couple’s adoring, besotted glances, and then of letting the relationship unfold at a languid pace as they try to figure out how to and whether they should stay together. Too bad I didn’t really care if they did or not.