Review: The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2 was the only one of the series I missed seeing in the theaters. It’s been a long wait for it to reach a streaming service, but it is at last on Amazon Prime. This film seemingly ends the saga of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and her quest to save the world. Continue reading “Review: The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2”

Watch This: Trailer for Maggie’s Plan

Maggie’s Plan has a great cast, a female writer and director, and a plot idea that seems original in concept.

Here’s the plot synopsis: Continue reading “Watch This: Trailer for Maggie’s Plan”

Watch This: Freeheld Previews and Interviews

Freeheld is an important story that I inadvertently never mentioned yet on the blog. I’m going to make up for that with a big catch-all post.

The film opens October 2, 2015. Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Michael Shannon, and Steve Carell star in this true story. It’s based on an Oscar winning documentary about Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore) and Stacie Andree (Ellen Page). Peter Sollett directs.

Julianne Moore and Ellen Page in Freeheld

It’s a love story, but it’s also a story about the couple’s fight for justice. I think the actual events surrounding Laurel’s fight with cancer and the county officials, Freeholders, took place in 2006 or 2007. Her fight to be treated as equal by the Freeholders is part of a direct line from then until the recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage.

The film description: “A decorated New Jersey police detective, Laurel is diagnosed with cancer and wants to leave her hard-earned pension to her domestic partner, Stacie. However the Freeholders conspire to prevent Laurel from doing this. Hard-nosed detective Dane Wells (Michael Shannon), and activist Steven Goldstein (Steve Carell), unite in Laurel and Stacie’s defense, rallying police officers and ordinary citizens to support their struggle for equality.”

The story of these two ordinary women who struggled for respect and justice mirrors so many more stories. It brings an important moment in history to a wide audience. I hope the film will be huge. I hope it makes a shit-ton of money and send the message to Hollywood decision-makers that a movie about two women – two gay women – can rock the world. Stacie Andree, the real woman who worked with the director and cast to make sure the movie told the truth, brings honor to her partner Laurel with this work. She deserves her spot in the history of the equality movement.

Here’s the first official trailer.

Another trailer with some of the same material, but shorter, features “Hands Of Love” performed by Miley Cyrus and written by Linda Perry.

Ellen Page describes her feelings about the importance of the story and about working with Julianne Moore.

Julianne Moore talks about the film and about working with Ellen Page.

The Old Ain’t Dead Best Actress of All Time Award

We just watched the 2015 Oscars. The two women who won Best Actress Awards this year were Julianne Moore and Patricia Arquette. Both wonderful actresses – accomplished, talented and deserving.

Sometimes the Oscars give Lifetime Achievement Awards. I want to give an award like that. I want to give the Old Ain’t Dead Best Actress of All Time Award. (There are no prizes and the award means nothing. Sorry.)

How do we judge the best actress of all time? Wins or nominations? Or some variation thereof? Why don’t we look at stats?

Is it Oscar wins? If so, the best actress of all time is Katharine Hepburn with 4 wins and 12 nominations.


Katharine Hepburn promo pic” by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio (work for hire) – [7] alt source: [8]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Is it Oscar nominations? If so, the best actress of all time is Meryl Streep with 3 wins and 19 nominations.


Meryl Streep by Jack Mitchell” by Jack Mitchell. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Either record is phenomenal. To be in 12 films, or 19 films, and do such an outstanding job that your performance is considered worthy of consideration for an Oscar – that’s phenomenal. That’s talent and skill and hard work and love.

I do have an opinion in this stats-based contest between Hepburn and Streep. I’m picking Streep as the winner and here’s why.

Meryl Streep disappears into a part. I’ve seen her in parts where I didn’t even realize it was her, she was so in character. She can be completely different from one film and one character to another.

Katherine Hepburn seems to always be Katherine Hepburn. Not that she couldn’t act – she could. But there was some essential Hepburnness to her voice, her movements, and her posture that was always there no matter the part.

With Meryl Streep, nothing stays the same. There’s no Streep there.

To be fair, Katherine Hepburn was performing in movies in a time when the costuming, the make up, the prosthetics, the technology and techniques were far less sophisticated than they are now.

Even taking that into consideration, I’m still giving the award to Meryl Streep. The Best Actress of All Time is Meryl Streep!

Meryl Streep as 4 different characters

Applause. Applause. Applause. Applause. Applause. Applause.

Watch This: Clip from Still Alice

Still Alice stars Julianne Moore as Dr. Alice Howland, a renowned linguistics professor who starts to forget words because of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. The film is based on Lisa Genova’s 2007 bestselling novel of the same name.

Still Alice will have a limited release in December, which means Julianne Moore will be in the running for an Oscar nomination for the film for 2014. The major release for the film will come in January 2015. There’s some talk that Moore might be nominated for an Oscar for Maps to the Stars for 2014. Two Oscar worthy performances this year! Those make for pretty good odds for Moore to win a long-deserved but illusive Oscar for 2014. She’s been nominated 4 times, but has no wins yet. I remember watching her back in 1999 in Cookie’s Fortune, thinking what an amazing performer she was. I think same thing every time I watch her in anything. She’s an enormous talent.

In Still Alice, the Howland family around Alice include her husband John (Alec Baldwin) and her 3 grown children: Lydia (Kristen Stewart), Anna (Kate Bosworth) and Tom (Hunter Parrish).

From mostly glowing reviews for Still Alice from TIFF, the film appears to be quiet and subdued, but honest and touching.

There isn’t an official trailer yet, but this brief clip was released. It shows something of the relationship between Alice and daughter Lydia.

I’ll be on the lookout for trailers and other information about this film as year’s end draws closer.

Watch This: Our Leader the Mockingjay

A new trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 released. Looks like Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss is getting herself an ragtag army and a rebellion whether she wants one or not. The suggested hashtag from the trailer is #OurLeaderTheMockingjay.

I caught a glimpse of Julianne Moore in this trailer. She’s a nice addition to The Hunger Games franchise. She’s a nice addition to anything.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 is scheduled for release in November. What a good way to spend the Thanksgiving weekend. I’m ready to drop my dollars going to see this female-led drama. What about you?

Review: Don Jon

Don Jon is an oddly sensitive film that ultimately has a good message. The message, however, is delivered in a complete man ‘splaining way. This makes it a man’s film much more than a woman’s film. We go through a lot with Jon, the don of sex, for him to learn something that women already know.

Spoilers ahead.

Working on the male ideal
Working on the male ideal

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Jon. He is super buff, a man’s man. He takes home a different girl every night after rating the women in the bars on a scale of 1–10 with his buddies. He always gets the girl with the highest score. After a quick bang with the girl-of-the-day, Jon sneaks off to watch pr0n. (Sorry for the misspelling. Trying to keep the icky people away.) Pr0n is perfect. Big tits, big asses, both in your face 100% of the time. Nothing like real sex.

This Jersey boy (the Jersey accents in the film are dead on) goes home to dinner with the folks once a week. His dad is played by Tony Danza who is simply fabulous in this part. Jon goes to mass on Sunday with the family and confesses each week to the number of times he had intercourse outside of marriage and the number of times he jerked off while watching videos.

A perfect 10
A perfect 10

One night in the bar, the boys spot Barbara (Scarlett Johansson). The ass, the boobs, the lips, the hair: she’s perfect. Jon has to have her.

Surprise, she’s not easy. He has to work for it. When he finally gets it, he’s sure he’s in love. He’s so sure he’s in love, he overlooks her little flaws – like she completely takes control of his life. Like she has sex just like everyone else he’s ever met and that great body of hers is never in his face the way it is in his fantasy world.

She makes him promise to stop watching the pr0n0. When he cannot, she dumps him.

Classmates
Classmates

Meanwhile Jon meets Esther (Julianne Moore) in night school. In a movie full of cardboard cutouts of characters, she is the most undeveloped of all. We know she bursts into tears at inappropriate times, smokes a lot of pot, and is willing to have sex with Jon. That’s it.

Later, when we get to the brief sensitive part of the story, we learn that Esther recently lost both her husband and her son. She is the woman who finally teaches Jon how to connect with a woman and actually make love as opposed to have sex.

Thanks to Esther’s wise teachings, Jon stops being an ass and becomes a nice guy. That’s the good message I mentioned. Getting Jon to that point is a very masculine undertaking. Not surprising since the film was written and directed by the star Joseph Gordon-Levitt and is about a hyper masculine guy.

If you want to take this trip from a male point of view, this film will rate very high with you. Within those parameters, it’s an excellent film.

A Comment from Twitter

When I tweeted a link to this article, I was reminded of something important about this film in a return tweet. I noticed while I was watching the film how Barbara with her romantic movies was just like Jon with his videos, but then I forgot to mention it in the review. Thanks to @damnthemusicman for reminding me of this important plot point.

All images © 2013 Relativity Media

Review: What Maisie Knew

What Maisie Knew is based on the Henry James novel of 1897. It stars Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan as Maisie’s horrifyingly bad parents. Maisie is played by Onata Aprile.

What Maisie Knew poster
What Maisie Knew poster

Alexander Skarsgård and Joanna Vanderham are also in the film. After Maisie’s parents divorce, her father marries the former nanny (Joanna Vanderham). Her mother marries a convenient bartender (Alexander Skarsgård) and these two surrogate parents are left largely in charge of the neglected and forgotten Maisie.

Moore and Coogan do not sugar coat their performances as the unlikeable adults. They are as selfish and unfit as two people could possible be to fill their roles as parents.

Like the book, the film is told from Maisie’s point of view. Onata Aprile is remarkable as Maisie. She’s  natural and real, completely childlike rather than actory. It’s hard to remember she’s performing – saying lines, taking direction. She absolutely makes the film work. It breaks our hearts as we watch her trying to survive in her often awful situation.

Like all neglected children, Maisie loves her parents. But when she’s with Margo, daddy’s new wife, or Lincoln, mommie’s new husband, Maisie recognizes that this is the way it’s supposed to be. Lincoln bumbles his way into child care – he doesn’t even know that you should hold a child’s hand when you cross a Manhattan street. But he does naturally all the things her mother does not do. He listens to her, he plays with her, he makes sure she has something to eat.

If a film about something so depressing can be called beautiful, this is a beautiful film. The performances are outstanding, the way the camera follows Maisie and lives in her world is brilliant. The ending is emotionally satisfying even though it is unrealistic to expect Maisie’s situation to be wrapped up in a red bow for any length of time.

The film was released on DVD in May 2013 and is available on most streaming services now.

Review: The English Teacher

The English Teacher has potential, I think, as I’m thumbing my way through Netflix on a Friday night. Julianne Moore, Greg Kinnear, Nathan Lane. It looks like a romantic comedy that could work on an otherwise long evening.

The English Teacher poster
The English Teacher poster

I took a chance. I enjoyed it. I watched it all the way through. It wasn’t so terrible that I had to quit 10 minutes in, but it was definitely not as good a film as you might expect from Julianne Moore and the other exemplary members of this cast.

The plot was fine. Julianne Moore is an English teacher – one of her former students returns to town feeling like a failure because his play was rejected – she decides to get the play produced at her high school. Nathan Lane is fantastic as the high school drama coach. Michael Angarano is perfect as the talented but immature playwright. Greg Kinnear, who of course we know will be Julianne Moore’s love interest simply from reading the cast list, does a fine job as the father of the young playwright and eventually makes it to love interest category. The play gets produced with a few bumps along the way.

Maybe “bangs” along the way would be a better term. Michael Angarano and Julieanne Moore have a moment on the desk in her classroom which adds complications to the plot. Especially when he then moves on to the high school girl leading the play, Lily Collins. And, of course, there are the complications involved in getting Moore and Kinnear together after they get off to a rocky start.

Predictable plots are a romantic comedy staple and new approaches to the various plot changes are always appreciated. This film does fine at that.

No, it wasn’t the plot.

It was the cute.

There was too much cutesy voice over. (Voiced by Fiona Shaw, by the way.) That grew annoying. Also, there was the cutesy way the teacher graded men like they were an English essay and we saw her “notes” plastered on the screen as she talked to them. If I could magically sweep away the cute, I’d recommend this as a great representative of the romantic comedy genre.

Alas, I can only recommend it as an average representative of the romantic comedy genre. Which, of course, is why I watched it all the way through and found it entertaining. Let’s face it, if you’re into rom coms, you’re used to average.

Check out the trailer.

If you watch The English Teacher, I’d love to hear your opinion of the cute. Was it as annoying to you as it seemed to me?