THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART ONE || November 21st, 2014

TheHungerGamesMockingjayPartOne-poster Setting the stage for the final installment of “The Hunger Games” series, “Mockingjay Part One” unfortunately feels like the cash grab that everyone predicted it to be. Without a fulfilling story arc, the film does not stand on its own. Jennifer Lawrence is provides a stellar performance and despite his premature death, Philip Seymour Hoffman is present throughout the entire film. Adding newcomers to the mix, like Julianne Moore as the rebel leader and Natalie Dormer (“Game Of Thrones”) as a propaganda director, there is enough star power to keep the film on its feet, yet spending 90% of the run-time underground causes for some feelings of claustrophobia and anti-action.

TheImitationGame-poster With tons of Academy Award attention not just for the film itself but for leading man Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game” is already a must-see. The fact that it also contains an awesome spy thriller about the real life genius Alan Turing, who was put in charge of cracking the Nazis secret codes by building the world’s first computer just makes it that much more enjoyable. Also starring a hugely talented ensemble in Mark Strong, Matthew Goode, Keira Knightley, and “Game Of Thrones” star Charles Dance, with The Weinstein Company behind this film, expect to see it garner several Oscar nominations.
THEATER
VHSViral-poster The best thing about these horror short anthologies is the willingness of the directors to push the boundaries of the genre and to mess with expectations, which mainstream and Hollywood horror films have completely abandoned. With, however, you lend yourself to some missteps and according to the critics, the third film in this series, titled “V/H/S: Viral” is a bit more convoluted and erratic than the previous installments. Bad reviews aside, though, there is no way I am missing this film as I loved the first two and even the imagines shown in this trailer look quite intense and truly unique.
RENTAL

AllRelative-poster With the recent passing of director Mike Nichols, it is only fitting that a romantic comedy along the exact lines of “The Graduate” gets released now. In “All Relative,” Harry (Jonathan Sadowski) finds himself meeting and sleeping with a much older woman (Connie Nielsen). Shortly thereafter he meets the perfect girl in Grace (Sara Paxton), someone much more closer to his age. Cut to meeting the family and suddenly Harry is face to face with his older lover… Grace’s mom. Now comes the conflict of whether to tell Grace or not. I wonder if it also ends in a runaway bride scenario. Sara Paxton is such a growing star, she’s worth the price of admission alone.
50%
PROBABLY
BadHair-poster It never ceases to amaze me how lax other countries are compared to the United States on certain topics. Most foreign trailers that you see have nudity and plenty of cursing, red band or not. But the prudes in America usually keep those things out of the marketing. “Pelo Malo” or “Bad Hair” has children talking about rape, people have sex, and a naked woman bouncing a baby in her arms, none of which seem to feel out of place and are definitely not just being used for shock value. The only story element I gather from the trailer is a single mom taking care of an unruly boy who wants his hair straightened for a school picture. Beyond that, I am in the dark.
PASS
DetroitUnleaded-poster Kudos to female Lebanon director Rola Nashef for making her first feature film, “Detroit Unleaded,” based on a short of the same title. But my biggest question is why Detroit and why this subject matter? A gas station attendant deals with a menial job and customers that could care less about him as he dates his dream girl and tries to keep it a secret from both of their families, for reasons unknown from the trailer alone. Mediocre production value and no real stars to speak of translate to very little exposure for sure.
PASS
Extraterrestrial2014-poster Most of the time I can jump on board films about aliens but “Extraterrestrial” loses me. Normally when I pass on films you hear me mention low production value as a major factor, but with this film, its the production value is too glossy for the subject matter. There is something about a bigger budget that has no place in this genre, unless of course its a space odyssey or something like “Prometheus”. Also not distinguishing between comedy, horror, and science fiction, the probing stinger at the end of the trailer marks dark comedy while the rest of the trailer is of horror tone. Granted the poster looks awesome, the trailer does little to sell it as a whole.
PASS
FoodChains-poster Tell me it is not frustrating that most of the social and political problems that occur in our nation stem from business owners and big money makers cutting corners and being assholes. “Food Chains” sets out to uncover the unjust working environments of the exploited immigrant workers with full time jobs picking fresh fruit and vegetables that are sold in our supermarkets and then going home to live in poverty, not making fair wages. Executive produced by Eva Longoria and narrated by Forrest Whittaker, this is the latest from the producers of “Food Inc” and “Fast Food Nation”.
PASS
AGirlWalksHomeAloneAtNight-poster Described as the “first Iranian Vampire Western ever made,” this foreign film is literally a mash-up of genres no one has ever asked for. Displayed in black-and-white, this subtle vampire flick is dark and dingy, with a strong central female character and a female writer-director whose steps into her first feature film. Unfortunately, the trailer does not display this genre mash-up in the best of light, leaving too many things vague and not delivering any heart or even real story elements.
PASS
HappyEnding-poster Bollywood comes to Hollywood in the film “Happy Ending”about a writer who has run out of money and is looking for his next gig. With no dances numbers in sight, this looks to be one of the most normal Bollywood films yet, with the most attractive Indian actors and actresses I have ever seen. However, the comedy style is exactly the same, remaining way too goofy and unbelievable to be taken even the slightest bit seriously.
PASS
HappyValley-poster “We all want to think we live in a better world than we do.” This is the statement made at the beginning of the trailer for the documentary “Happy Valley” shedding light on the Penn State scandal involving head footbal coach Joe Paterno and assistant coach Jerry Sandusky which rocked the nation in 2011 where Sandusky was charged with 40 counts of child sex abuse, to which Paterno and the campus had turned a blind eye. Relevant in the news right now, these “turning a blind eye” mentalities have people rioting everywhere, including in this trailer at the Penn State campus.
PASS
HardSun-poster “Hard Sun” looks like a film with a bundle of issues going on within its narrative. A young woman is passing up amazing opportunities to take care of her special needs brother after their parents die. With people constantly attacking one another, there is a little bit too much halfhearted violence in this trailer alone. One positive thing coming out of this trailer is the young actress Robyn Buck, who looks very strong in this role. This is director Canyon Prince’s feature debut.
PASS
HelloLadiesTheMovie-poster Having never actually seen the television series “Hello Ladies,” the farewell to the show in the form of this feature, “Hello Ladies: The Movie” is lost on me. For one thing, Stephen Merchant and his brand of comedy is not humorous to me. The nerd trying to be good with the ladies bit has been done so many times before that phoning it in just does not work anymore. Coercing an attractive woman to pretend to date him in order to make an ex-girlfriend jealous is even more overplayed. There is absolutely nothing original about this HBO movie event.
PASS
TheHomestretch-poster To be up front, this trailer is less of a trailer and more of a featurette, running at almost five minutes. “The Homestretch” is a documentary about the homeless youth living in Chicago, going to public school, and fighting for a place to sleep at night. Following three individuals in particular, this film has the positive message of trying to get them off the streets but does so in a very straightforward and somewhat boring way that may turn people away, myself included.
PASS
TheKingAndTheMockingbird-poster An animated film 30 years in the making has been finished and restored for your viewing pleasure. Actually started in 1948 as “The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep,” loosely based off the Hans Christian Andersen story, the film was never finished and eventually released without the director or writer’s consent. Finally obtaining the rights, the filmmaker Paul Grimault retitled the film “The King and the Mockingbird” and finally finished it. Apparently cited as one of Hayao Mayazaki’s influences in animation, this could be a brilliant animated film.
PASS
LatePhases-poster Here’s something you will not see everyday: a creature feature about a werewolf with the protagonist being a blind man that just moved into the neighborhood. “Late Phases: Night Of The Lone Wolf” is the low budget Indie with that premise and with the only recognizable star being Ethan Embry, the only thing really going for it is its production design in the form of the werewolf. Still, the film comes off more as a joke than a serious endeavor and for that, it barely delivers any laughable moments.
PASS
LittleHopeWasArson-poster Going from documentaries about homeless children and exploited immigrant workers to something as less impacting as church fires in 2010, “Little Hope Was Arson” is a documentary that is merely trying to be a big deal while in reality, I had not even heard about this in the news that four years ago. Taking place in the Bible belt of Texas, 10 church fires occurred over a month and the investigation that took place to find the culprits apparently put many people’s faiths in the balance. The trailer for this film makes it seem like the gun-toting church members are the heroes when in reality, I feel like the arsonists probably had a distinct reason for perpetrating these events.
PASS
MonkWithACamera-poster What an interesting story: “The son of a United States Ambassador, grandson of legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, and a photographer by trade, Nicky Vreeland left his privileged life behind to follow his true calling as a Tibetan Buddhist monk. Spending 14 years studying to become a monk, the true twist of fate and the reason for the documentary “Monk With A Camera” came about when the funding for monastery that was to be built fell through and Nicky returned to the world of photography and schmoozing in order to raise the money for said monastery. Despite being such a grand story, I feel like I learned all I would want to from the trailer alone,  but still such a brilliant and unique story.
PASS
TheMule-poster What happens when in the process of being a drug mule for some big money mobsters you become detained by the police, held in a hotel room, and forced to wait until you crap out the drugs before you can leave? “The Mule” attempts to answer that question, in the dark comedy about a man fighting the urge to poop out the drugs while politics and the law work around the clock to try and contain the situation. Starring Hugo Weaving as the only recognizable face and a beautiful actress named Georgina Haig, this may sound good on paper but in practice, it still does not look like a great film.
PASS
PulpFilmAboutLifeDeathSupermarkets-poster Repost: Not being familiar with the 1970’s English band Pulp, their documentary, “Pulp: A Film About Life, Death, and Supermarkets” really does not land for me. Beginning with two little girls being asked if they want to be in a film, I found little connection between this and the actual trailer itself. In fact, the trailer is rather hard to follow. What seems to be them setting up their biggest show to date, I am guessing the band looks back at itself and the long road it has taken to get where they are today, which is a great documentary that I would not mind seeing for a band I had actually heard of.
PASS
PunksDead-poster Apparently the follow up to “SLC Punk,” this sequel “Punk’s Dead” really does not offer much that makes me want to see it. Focusing on a road trip to some concert and of course, doing mushrooms, what this film is actually about and how it relates to punk in any way, shape, or form is still up in the air. Regardless, there is zero star power an “SLC Punk” was hardly good enough to think that it needed to be revisited.
PASS
ReachMe-poster If I told you that a film starring Sylvester Stallone, Tom Berenger, Kevin Connolly, Kyra Sedgwick, Nelly, Kelsey Grammer, Cary Elwes, Terry Crews, Lauren Cohen, and Tom Sizemore was rated at a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, you would probably be hard pressed to believe me, but the film “Reach Me” is apparently packed with talent and nothing else. As a motivational book by an unknown writer goes viral, how the book effects people becomes the driving force of the film, leading many to search for the mystery man. Before watching the trailer, I would have told you that I would probably have seen this movie, but after seeing how hollow the trailer alone is and finding out its RT rating, these are huge, undeniable red flags.
PASS
TheSleepwalker-poster An official selection of Sundance this past year, “The Sleepwalker” appears to have all the right pieces to the puzzle, but is unable to put them together in an interesting or challenging way. As a couple struggles with the sudden appearance of the woman’s sister in their house, followed by the sister’s boyfriend showing up as well, what comes next is really anyone’s guess as the trailer really leaves too much vague. The title comes from the sister’s knack for sleepwalking and a burned couch in one scene leads me to believe they have a hard time keeping it under control, but beyond some mystery about the women’s upbringing, what exactly this film is about or how thrilling it gets is unclear.
PASS
TwoBitWaltz-poster You may recognize Clara Mamet as the daughter from ABC’s short lived comedy “The Neighbors” but now she finds herself directing, writing, and starring in her own feature film, “Two-Bit Waltz”. The 20 year old daughter of director David Mamet (“The Untouchables”) and actress Rebecca Pigeon (who also stars in this film as her mother), Clara appears to conjuring her best Wes Anderson with this dry comedy, even going as far as to cast Jared Gilman (“Moonrise Kingdom”) as her brother. Also starring William H. Macy, this could be great or could be impossibly dry.
25% MAYBE

THEATER

  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part One
  • The Imitation Game

RENTAL

  • V/H/S: Viral

MOST LIKELY CATCH ON NETFLIX (75%)

PROBABLY CATCH ON NETFLIX (50%)

  • All Relative

MIGHT CATCH ON NETFLIX (25%)

  • Two-Bit Waltz

PASS

  • Bad Hair
  • Detroit Unleaded
  • Extraterrestrial
  • Food Chains
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
  • Happy Ending
  • Happy Valley
  • Hard Sun
  • Hello Ladies: The Movie
  • The Homestretch
  • The King And The Mockingbird
  • Late Phases: Night Of The Lone Wolf
  • Little Hope Was Arson
  • Monk With A Camera
  • The Mule
  • Pulp: A Film About Life, Death, And Supermarkets
  • Punk’s Dead
  • Reach Me
  • The Sleepwalker

HELL NO

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