The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Review

I must own to not being a fan of the very popular Hunger Games series. I liked the first book while I was reading it but it is so cynical that it kind of left a bad taste in my mouth afterwards. 2 and 3 of the books I thought were boring, repetitive and even more cynical especially the way things ended in 3. I saw the first Hunger Games movie and while I like Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss I did not enjoy the film. I had some of the same problems with the cynicism and the shaky cam made me crazy (not a fan of that filming technique if you didn’t know). Anyway, I had no interest in seeing any of the follow-ups and I haven’t; therefore, I will not be seeing the final film (how they put Mockingjay into two movies I will never understand). However, my friend over at Jasonsmovieblog posted his review so I thought I would share it with all of you. If you are a fan of the series it sounds like something you will enjoy. Follow his blog if you don’t already do so.

Jason's Movie Blog

THERE ARE MUCH WORSE GAMES TO PLAY


Back in 2012, moviegoers everywhere were introduced to the motion picture phenomenon The Hunger Games, a film adaptation that was based off of Suzanne Collins best-selling teen series. While the film, which followed the female protagonist Katniss Everdeen, had its critics, ultimately won over its millions of fans, paving the way for other dystopian teen book series to be adapted (Divergent, Maze Runner, The 5th Wave, etc.). With the first installment movie a success, the series continued forward with its lucrative sequential sequels with 2013’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and 2014’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. Now, with the year of 2015 slowly drawing to a close, the time has come for Katniss Everdeen (the girl on fire) to bow out of her cinematic franchise with the highly anticipated finale The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. Is…

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Friday 5: 5 Favorite Animated TV Show Theme Songs

There is a really fun series I do over on my youtube channel that I normally post on my other blog smilingldsgirl.com called The Friday 5.  It was set up by a fellow youtuber named Sarah Crawford and each week she picks a topic and we have to choose 5 of our favorite songs that fit that topic.  Normally my other blog is more suited to music but since this one involved animation I decided to include it on this blog this week.

This week’s topic was ‘5 of your favorite themes from TV Shows” and since animation is my favorite I decided to go with that.

I think they are 5 really fun themes and 5 great shows. If you haven’t seen them you should totally check them out.  What are some of your favorite themes from TV shows, animated or not?  I would love to hear.  I do this series every week and next week is wild card so if you have any suggestions of a fun topic I could pick put in the comments section.  If any of you have youtube channels it’s a very fun series to be a part of.

Thanks and have a Happy Friday!!

Spotlight Movie Review

spotlight5It’s movies like Spotlight that make me wish the Academy Awards had a Best Ensemble award because every single player in this journalism expose film is about as good as it gets.  This whole movie is without a doubt one of the best of the year and I really think it is an important movie for all to see.

Spotlight is based on the 2001-2002 investigative journalism done by a wing of the Boston Globe called spotlight.  They spent nearly 2 years researching abuse in the Catholic Church and by the end uncover 70 predators and the widespread cover-up that allowed this evil to persist.

But that might make it sound depressing and it is certainly sobering but I was surprised how many times I smiled.  The script is so well written and the performances so great that it feels like we are following real people who of course are going to smile and laugh on occasion even when investigating this awful thing.

spotlight3It will also rip your heart out at sections but that is again because the writing allows for the softer moments and gives us a chance to breathe and take it all in.  There is never a sense of being manipulated because some of the characters even realize their lack of reporting in the past was part of the problem.  It is not like Steve Jobs which was good but left me feeling cold because it was so one-sided.  Here are fully dimensional people investigating lead after lead after lead.

If Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer don’t get nominated for Best Screenplay than it would be the scandal of the year.  These reporters and most of the other characters were so compelling I felt like we had been through an experience together and I knew them after watching the movie. It was that natural and real.

spotlight2I love movies about work and this is an amazing one.  You could feel the hard work weighing down their faces but their drive and ambition, even arrogance also feeding in.

Mark Ruffalo- as Michael Rezendes, one of the main investigators, amazing performance and a scene where he talks about how much he used to like going to church made me sob.

Rachel McAdams- as Sacha Pfeiffer, the lone woman in the Spotlight crew who goes to church with her Nana and makes a personal investment in interviewing and getting to know many of the victims.

Michael Keaton- as Robby Robinson, head of Spotlight who is a great leader and uses his ins within the Boston community to uncover many things he wish he didn’t have to know about or find.

Liev Schreiber- as Marty Baron, new editor for the Globe and pushes the Spotlight team on the case.  He is Jewish and there is a feeling he is trying to use this case to make a big name for himself, which may be partly true.  It’s a brilliant performance.

John Slattery (from Mad Men)- Ben Bradlee Jr, one of the heads at the newspaper.

Stanley Tucci- as Mitch Garabedian is nomination worthy as a lawyer who takes on these long shot victims cases.  Initially you think he is out for only the notoriety of suing the Catholic church but there is more to it.

The list could go on and on.  It’s truly remarkable how these reporters felt like real people and I was completely engaged as they dug one level and then another and another.

spotlightNow most people know I am a person of deep and abiding faith, so it might rightly be asked if watching such a film about a corrupt branch of a faith is difficult.  It is tough, but I absolutely think that is a reason to watch it not to stay away.  If I had my way this film would be required viewing for anyone of faith.  It’s like the old quote  by Edmund Burke says:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

To hear how men supposedly of God could rationalize and make excuses for molesting and harming children is sickening.  I don’t know how that can not be the case.  But it is also sickening to  hear about people who could have done something to stop it and kept their mouth shut, or in some case silenced those who were willing to speak out.  That is not what Jesus would have us do.  He protected the little children above everything else.  He blessed them and brought one back from the dead.  Yes, he forgave the woman caught in adultery but that was only after she faced near death as a punishment.  He showed mercy but he did not for a second turn a blind eye to sin especially when it came to children.

Watching something like Spotlight it does tear your heart out and make you think about what you would do.  We all like to think we would do the right thing but an entire city for decades didn’t and that is a sobering thought.  It took the brave efforts of these reporters to finally get something done.  They are true heroes in my book.

Here’s some of the actors and the actual reporters.

TORONTO, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 25: The cast of the film, "Spotlight," including Boston Globe journalists and their acting counterparts, from left; screenwriter Josh Singer, Walter Robinson, Ben Bradlee Jr., Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, director Tom McCarthy, Live Schreiber, Sacha Pheiffer, Marty Baron, Michael Rezendes, Brian dArcy James and Matt Carroll are photographed for Los Angeles Times on September 25, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario. PUBLISHED IMAGE. CREDIT MUST READ: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times/Contour by Getty Images. (Photo by Jay L. Clendenin/Contour by Getty Images)

But I can’t overstate it enough this is a sobering but not depressing film.  I left feeling inspired, wanting to make a difference in the world, wanting to be a better person, and I really did laugh more than you’d think.  It’s a great movie and I loved it so much.

As far as content surprisingly it is a very mild R rating. There’s a little bit of language and some scenes where molestation is discussed openly but it’s minimal and I think definitely appropriate for mature teens.  Go see it!

Overall Grade- A+

Here’s the trailer:

Here is my youtube review

 

 

 

Star Wars Ep 4: New Hope Review and Discussion

So we have gotten through the prequels and I think had a pretty good time doing it and now on to the cream of the crop!  Yesterday my friends Abby and Jeremy and I discussed the original Star Wars movie. This is a film that I think is just about perfect.  If I was going on a desert island it would be a film I would take with me.  I love the characters, action, pacing, setting, lore, and everything else.  Nevertheless, we aren’t just drooling fans but have a good discussion on the film I think you will enjoy.

Just as I have done in the past Star Wars reviews here is my summary of Episode 4.

PLOT:

The original Star Wars ep 4 starts 19 years after the events of Revenge of the Sith. The galaxy has split up into two groups, rebels and the larger Galactic Empire. At the opening a rebel Princess Leia has stolen plans to the Death Star in R2D2. Leia is captured but she sends R2 and C3PO to Tatooine to find Obi-Wan Kinobi.

Next we meet Luke Skywalker who is anxious to get out of his uncle’s simple farm life. Luke purchases the droids and see’s the message from Leia to Obi-Wan. They end up meeting Obi-Wan and Luke learns about the days of the Jedi, the force, and Darth Vader who studied under Obi-Wan and killed Luke’s father. Luke is also given his father’s light saber.

After viewing the message Obi-Wan decides to go to Alderaan and visit with Leia’s father. Luke decides to go with him only after he finds his uncle and aunt have been burned alive by Imperial storm troopers looking for the droids. To get to Alderaan they hire the cynical pilot Han Solo and Chewbacca who fly in the Millennium Falcon.

Meanwhile Grand Moff Tarkin decides to make a show of force to Leia and the other rebels and destroys the entire planet of Alderaan in one massive shot. The Millennium Falcon is caught by the Death Star and Han, Luke, Obi-Wan and the droids stage a rescue for Leia. However, things go wrong as they are caught and end up in a trash compactor where they narrowly escape being crushed alive. Then they escape but not before Obi-Wan and Vader duel with light sabers and Obi-Wan is killed. Luke is devastated but they must leave.

Using the plans for the Death Star the rebels discover a port that connects to the station’s main reactor. They decide if they can shoot a target directly in that port it will cause the entire Death Star to explode. Luke and a squadron join the mission and Vader is hot on their trails. Obi-Wan’s spirit helps counsel Luke to use the force and he is able to successfully get the shots into the port and destroy the Death Star. This kills Tarkin and weakens the Empire for the moment. Han and Luke receive medals for their bravery to end the film.

REVIEW:

This is pretty much how I feel about this movie:

I love Star Wars.  I love the characters especially Han and Luke.  I love the journey we go on with Luke as he learns about his father and the Jedi. I love Vader as an awesome villain with a strange attachment to his ‘old religion’.  I love all the world building and the special effects.  I love hyperspace and the droids.  I love the humor especially from C3PO.  I love what Star Wars did for movies and fandom.  I think the music is perfect and by the end I want to cheer.

What George Lucas accomplished is truly remarkable and as much as the prequels aren’t my favorite I give full props to him for all he gave modern movies.  I don’t know how it can be argued that Star Wars is not one of the top 10 most influential films of all time. Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, Star Wars to me belong in the same discussion as the greatest movies of all time and 99% of people I know agree with me on that. Most of all it is so entertaining for the entire family.  That’s why most of us are excited for Force Awakens because it will hopefully be a chance to relive the Star Wars we were introduced to as kids.  The Star Wars that made us want to cheer.

That’s all I really have to say about Star Wars.  I love it and on to Empire Strikes Back next!

Overall Grade- A+

Should I Give Grades?

grades

Hi friends!  I want to ask your opinion.  One thing as a movie blogger I have struggled with is rating or ranking the films I see.  It’s one thing if it is the Pixar reviews or Disney Canon reviews and they are films I can watch multiple times really crafting an “expert” opinion.   I feel more confident in those reviews; although, some of the early Canon reviews I think I was a little bit tough (particularly Bambi and Pinocchio) because I didn’t have much experience writing reviews. But when I am reviewing a new movie it is hard to have that kind of exposure to the film and it is mostly a response to my gut reaction.  It’s tough to take notes although sometimes I do.  I think most readers understand the difference between new and previously released films but I wonder if the grading system I use sometimes hinders me a bit in giving that response.

Here’s what I mean.  There are a lot of films that I enjoy and would sincerely recommend them to people.  That said, I see the flaws and feel they are an average film.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  This according to my grade gets a C grade.  B is really good and A is in running for best of year. But it seems to me that people can become to fixated on the C grade and ignore all the positive things I said in the review.  Sometimes I wonder if people read the review at all and just looked at the grade.

In general I think I’m actually a little bit too generous with the A grades.  After all I gave 22 As in my Disney Canon ranking.  That’s almost half. I gave 10 of the Pixar films A grades.  And yet recently I’ve been accused of being a “tough critic”.  This is mainly I think because of my disappointment in the Minions movie.  However, if you actually read that review I think I was far nicer than many other animation bloggers I know.  In fact I said:

“A friend of mine asked me if she should still see and I said yes.  It’s fine but just know it is made for little kids without a ton of grown up appeal…However, it does look nice and is bright and colorful and the beginning 20 minutes is a lot of fun”

Here I was telling my friends go see it but my giving it a C- (just a hair below average) means I am a tough critic?  I don’t get it?

One thing I have noticed is in my video reviews for my youtube channel I don’t give out grades.  Not out of design but honestly most of the time I simply forget. I just give my response to the film and people seem very happy with that.  I wonder sometimes if people listen to what I say a little bit more because I didn’t give a grade?

Sometimes I feel like the judges on Dancing with the Stars that get booed anytime they say anything negative about a performance.  I’ll say tons of great things about a film and then have a few things I didn’t like and people focus on those instead of all the good stuff.  That can be very frustrating as a writer.

I’ve had people say a ‘you should have given it a B’ but when we actually talk about our experiences and reactions they aren’t that different. It’s just what defines a C to me is a B for him or her.  That makes me want to throw the grades out!

I don’t know.  What do you think?  Do you see value in having a grade at the end of the review?  Is it something you care about?  Do you think I am a tough critic?  Sure I have my preferences but there are very few movies I totally dog (Maleficent I’m talking to you…).

Please give me some feedback my lovely readers.  Do you like the grades or can I do away with them and just write my thoughts on the film?  That’s what I did for Scrooge Month last year and it worked out great.  No grades needed.

Thanks for your help with this!

Suffragette Movie Review

So I was so looking forward to the new movie Suffragette and you could say it let me down.  It’s such a shame because it had so much potential. My main problem was the constant use of shaky cam and extreme close-ups.  It really ruined the film for me.  I don’t have time to do  full write up on here but here is my youtube review.

Old People, Depressed Kids, Spies and Other 2015 Movie Trends

After seeing Spectre and Peanuts Movie last week it occurred to me they are both part of some eclectic trends in the movies of 2015.  2014 was a huge superhero movie year with Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America Winter Soldier, Xmen Days of Future Past, Amazing Spiderman 2 and Big Hero 6 (and in a certain way even Birdman).  This year we’ve had Avengers Age of Ultron, Ant-Man and Fantastic 4 but I still wouldn’t call it a huge superhero movie year.

On the other hand, superhero movies is hardly an original trend in movie making so this years trends feel a little bit more eclectic and different.

Let me know if I missed any in these 3 trends and please put in comments your favorite of each strange genre.

Some 2015 trends I’ve noticed are (Can click on each of the titles to be taken to my review of the films):

Old People Films-

This year we’ve had a lot of movies that are about how great it is to be old and made for a senior citizen audience.  Best of the crew either Mr Holmes or I’ll See You in My Dreams. I could almost include Ricki and the Flash in this but she isn’t really old although it deals with themes of aging.

2nd Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The-Second-Best-Exotic-Marigold-Hotel-Cast-WallpapersWoman in Gold

WOMAN IN GOLDAge of Adaline

age of adaline 7Mr Holmes

mr holmes4

I’ll See You in My Dreams

dreams6The Intern

internSpy Movies-

The next trend has been spy movies.  We had had 7 this year and the best in my opinion was Mission Impossible 5 but in fairness 3 I have not seen because of strong R rated content.

Kingsman Secret Service (Have not seen because of violent bloody content)

kingsmanSpy (have not seen because of profanity and other content)

spyAmerican ULTRA (have not seen because of violent content)

american ultra2

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

mi5Man from UNCLE

UNCLE3Bridge of Spies

bridge of spies7SPECTRE

spectre5

Kids Films Dealing with Depression –

The final odd trend is films aimed at children (and adults) that deal with depression and mental illness.  This sounds like a downer but they are each quite different and wonderfully executed.  I personally think it is great to show kids how to deal with all kinds of feelings. I love all 3 of these films but my favorite is Inside Out

When Marnie was There

when marnie7Inside Out

inside out 15The Peanuts Movie

peanuts4The other trend this year which isn’t exactly new is I must have seen a dozen movies that people said “Just turn off your brain and enjoy it”  Some of them I could but most of them didn’t do it for me even on a silly level.

Dopey Action Movies

Furious 7 (liked)

Jupiter Ascending (laughed at)

San Andreas (hated)

Avengers Age of Ultron (loved)

Terminator Genysis (hated)

Jurassic World (meh)

Pixels (disliked)

Ant-Man (liked)

Man From UNCLE (ok)

Maze Runner Scorch Trials (disliked)

Mission Impossible 5 (liked)

Fantastic 4 (hated)

Spectre (ok)

And honestly Mad Max Fury Road was a stupid action movie as far as plot goes but it was so well done and intense it worked.

And I know there are more I just can’t think of them right now.

Movies that Put Me to Sleep (yep I zonked off in the theater for just a second)

Strange Magic

Tomorrowland

Mr Holmes

Woman in Gold

Bridge of Spies

Finding Dory Teaser Trailer Thoughts

So I wasn’t going to do a review to the Finding Dory teaser trailer released today but after some rest felt well enough to put out a few thoughts.  If you haven’t subscribed to my channel I’d really appreciate it and if you like the video please give it a thumbs up.  Thanks!

Basically the trailer is more of a clip than a regular trailer.  It gives us a scene with Nemo finding Dory sleep-swimming because she is remembering her parents.  One of the interesting things is that clearly Finding Dory is going to take place very soon after Finding Nemo because Nemo is still little in this film.  That surprises me a bit but it makes sense when you think of all the stimulation Dory received while looking for Nemo.  She was able to remember details like PT Sherman and so perhaps her brain is remembering lots of things it had forgotten.

There is a little side of me that is nervous about this film.  It’s just a worry that side characters like the recent Minions can’t uphold their as the lead to their own movie.  Now I think the team behind Finding Dory is a milion times stronger than Minions but there’s still that worry.

However, I am mostly excited to see Marlin, Nemo and Dory back in the ocean on an adventure.  I love the oceanscapes of Finding Nemo and can’t wait to see how beautiful the ocean looks again.  The cast they have on board looks great including returning favorites like Ellen Degeneres, Albert Brooks and William Defoe.  And we have new characters voiced by Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Ty Burrell and Ed O’Neil.  Andrew Stanton is back directing and writing (a lot of people forget that Nemo was nominated for Best Screenplay not just Animated Feature Film).  So, hard to not get excited about such talent involved on every aspect of this film.

Really I think the trailer was more for people outside Disney and Pixar fandom who aren’t aware of the project and to just introduce to them that the Finding Dory is coming next June.

What did you think of the trailer?

If you haven’t had a chance to watch it here it is

The Disney Era Tag: Golden Era

Hi friends so I have been tagged by Natalie over at her Disney Freak blog.  The Golden Era of Disney films is considered 1937-1942 or basically 5 films- Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo and Bambi.  They are all true masterpieces and such bold artistic visions and I think they all hold up very well both animation and otherwise.  As I love this era it was a pretty easy tag for me to do so here are my answers:

1.Are there films you haven’t seen from this era? Nope seen them all! You can read my reviews of all of the films here: (These were the first reviews I ever wrote for the blog!)

Snow White

Pinocchio

Fantasia

Dumbo

Bambi

2.What is your favorite film from the era? My favorite is Fantasia because it has the most variety and I love seeing the artists interpret the beautiful music. I honestly don’t get it when people think it is boring- a new world, characters, story, music happens every 10 minutes or so! fantasia poster

3.What is your least favorite film of the era? Pinocchio. I didn’t like it as a girl and while I appreciate it now it still isn’t a favorite of mine.  The animation is beautiful but as a morality tale it can be a little heavy handed and scary.

pinocchio4.What is your favorite main character? I love Timothy Q Mouse.  He sticks up for Dumbo and doesn’t allow him to be bullied or made fun of by the elephants.

Timothy_Q._Mouse

5.Who is your favorite villain? Night on Bald Mountain aside there really is only 1 villain in these films- the Evil Queen.  She is great because she is queen.  She has all the power and money but her vanity wants more.  She must be fairest in the land and when she isn’t she wants Snow White killed.  That’s pretty wicked! I also love the vocal performance and her design both as old lady and evil queen.

evil queen6.Who is your favorite sidekick? Well I already said Timothy Q Mouse so I will go with Dopey.  He’s so funny and sweet.

dopey7.What is your favorite song of the era?  When You Wish Upon a Star is about as good as it gets. It’s a song about hope and daring to dream for greater things in life.  That’s what Disney does at its best is inspire hope and imagination.  I would put Baby Mine as a close second.

8.What do you consider to be the most underrated film of the era? Dumbo because it gets a bum rap for being racist.  I think the crows are a caricature but I personally don’t find them that offensive.  I think it is especially forgivable when the entire message of the movie is about accepting people (or elephants) that are different.

crows29.What is your favorite thing about this era?  I’m just blown away by the artistry and how bold Walt was.  It would have been so easy for him to pump out 5 more Snow Whites but he went for Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Bambi which are all artistic masterpieces and bold storytelling.  Dumbo is the simpleton of the group and that’s saying something because it is also bold in kind of a simple way.  They are challenging in tone and themes and take multiple viewings to absorb.  I love all 5 more each time I see them.

10.What is your least favorite thing about this era? My least favorite scene is when the boys get turned into donkeys; although, as an adult I find it more enjoyable.  As a kid I was petrified of it!  The scene where Dumbo and Timothy Q Mouse get drunk isn’t my favorite either.

donkeysI haven’t mentioned Bambi at all in this tag, which is a shame because I really do love it.  It’s so textured and beautiful to watch.  I love how it doesn’t have much plot but is just a baby deer growing up.  It’s sweet and simple and then sad when it needs to be.  The scenes with the fire are stunningly animated and the way it uses music as a sound effect was groundbreaking.  I was probably a little too tough on Bambi when I reviewed it.  I definitely should have given it an A.

bambi2