Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Review Catchup (Part 3)

3 more knocked out.

The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire
A substantial improvement over the first one, but still not what it could have been.

Anchored by the better-than-the-movie-deserves performance of Jennifer Lawrence, this sequel thankfully doesn't feel the need to recap the previous movie, but still falls into the same trap as the first where it over-explains everything in extraneous scenes featuring President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman).  Yet again, valuable world-building is cut out for this unnecessary exposition and, even worse, it lessens the threat Snow exudes in his actual scenes from the book.

However, the world-building that does occur is great:  Katniss and Peeta's trip to the Capitol is filled with decadence (the Costume Design, in particular is great) and the best parts of the movie come during this sequence.  It's during this part that we meet Finnick (Sam Claflin) and Johanna Mason (Jena Malone), along with Mags (Lynn Cohen), Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), and Wiress (Amanda Plummer).  I wish more time has been spent on these characters (Johanna in particular - Malone is fantastic in the role) as opposed to cutaways to Snow/Plutarch, but all the actors make the most of their material.

Once the actual Hunger Games start, the pace quickens (though we still get those damn cutaways to Snow).  A few glaring plot holes are in this part (if keeping Katniss alive is so important... why do they keep almost killing her?), but it's better-shot than the Games in the first movie.  They do still skirt around the Katniss-as-killer aspect, however.

A step in the right direction, but I worry if they will keep moving forward for the last part where things get much more violent.  6.5 out of 10.

If Catching Fire left me cold, Frozen warmed me right up.  While not quite as good as the hyperbole would suggest (it's better than Tangled, but not quite as good as anything from the Disney Renaissance), it is still a great way to spend an hour and a half.  Especially in 3-D.  The movie follows Anna (Kristin Bell), a young princess, as she goes to retrieve her sister Elsa (Idina Menzel), who was born with magical powers that let her create snow and ice.

This is first Disney animated feature to have a woman as a co-director, and one can't help but feel that perspective enriched the movie as a whole.  This isn't your typical Disney fairy tale.  It's a bit too on the nose as far as the slight mocking of prior Disney films, but it doesn't hurt the film.

The movie moves along at a brisk pace, has some great musical numbers ("Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" is a great passage-of-time number, and "Let It Go" is the main reason to see the movie in 3-D.)  The comic relief provided by Olaf the Snowman works well within the context of the story (the trailers featuring him were my biggest concern about the movie as a whole) and Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) is a great foil to Anna's enthusiasm.

The real standout is Idina Menzel's Elsa.  In some ways, the movie might have been stronger had it focused on her, but that might have been too much of a good thing.

Not amongst the top tier of Disney movies, but definitely up high.  8.5 out of 10.

Not really sure I can add much to the discussion of this movie, coming into it so late.  Sandra Bullock was quite good in Alfonso Cuaron's auteur piece.  George Clooney was totally phoning it in though.  9.0 out of 10.

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